Despite ending last season with trophies galore, including a third consecutive Premier League title, it has been a summer of reflection at Old Trafford, and manager Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he will be tinkering with his side’s formation ahead of the new campaign.
Although the league, Carling Cup and Club World Cup were all bagged last time out, a comprehensive defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League final will have left a bitter taste in many of the players’ mouths whilst the fans will be wondering how the team will cope following the departures of two key men.
Unusually for the champions most of the talk surrounding their summer business has concerned players departing rather than arriving. Whilst it was little surprise to see Cristiano Ronaldo finally head to Real Madrid, he will still be missed although the whopping price tag will have softened the blow somewhat.
Carlos Tevez’s decision to head to neighbours Manchester City, will have riled fans who made their feelings about the Argentine well and truly heard, however his subsequent comments about his former club may just mean he is quickly forgotten
Whilst the outgoings have raised eyebrows, the players signed by Manchester United have caused even more surprise, particularly the man handed Ronaldo’s no. 7 shirt, Michael Owen.
Concerns over form and fitness still surround the striker yet his arrival on a free transfer means he is barely a gamble, and if he can rediscover his scoring boots he should bag more than the five league goals Tevez managed last season.
Owen will be joined by Antonio Valencia, the Wigan Athletic winger who had long been tipped to join United. Much will be expected of the Ecuadorian, who is expected to fill Ronaldo’s position on the right wing, and he should prove a quality addition to the team.
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Defensively the Red Devils remain fairly formidable and with a back four containing Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra they boast, arguably, one of the strongest defences in the world.
Up front there are few problems too, Wayne Rooney has been handed his favourite position, Ferguson has insisted Dimitar Berbatov will improve on a steady first season, whilst waiting in the wings are Michael Owen and hungry youngsters Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck.
However, it is in the midfield where the Old Trafford outfit may have problems this season and much responsibility will be handed to the likes of Park Ji Sung, Michael Carrick, Nani, Anderson and new boy Valencia to weigh in with their share of creativity and goals.
Sir Alex has promised to tinker with his formation.
With CR7 long gone the goalscoring burden will surely fall on Wayne Rooney’s young shoulders this season. Replacing Ronaldo’s goals will be his key task and with the England international set to play in his favoured central role this season, in a World Cup year, it will be fascinating to see how he handles the extra pressure.
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Striker Federico Macheda made his name last season with two match-winning goals and Ferguson has promised he will see more playing time this summer. Indeed the Scot has insisted Macheda’s potential was one of the prime reasons he didn’t splash the Ronaldo cash this summer and the young Italian will be hoping to build on a promising start to his United career.
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There is little left to say about Sir Alex Ferguson although once again he has managed to surprise many by failing to spend big despite the departure of Ronaldo, and swooping instead for a freebie in Michael Owen.
The Scot has openly admitted his side will miss their Portuguese international and that he will play a different formation next season as he hopes his re-shaped team can make it four league titles on the trot.
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Defeat by Barcelona in May will have stung players and manager alike at United and the desire to regain that trophy must burn brightly. However, perhaps more pertinent is the knowledge that another Premier League trophy would see them become the first club to win the trophy four years running but more importantly see the Red Devils overtake Liverpool’s tally of 18 titles.
Gill Clark, Goal.com