With the World Cup in full swing, papers speculate which star at the
World Cup is linked with which club. Every day, a new star arises in
the world cup and not surprising, he’s linked to a major European
club. United are no exception to this rule. Yet, having seen the
comments coming out of Old Trafford in recent weeks, I have my doubts as to the number of signings that Sir Alex is out to make.
David Gill might be coming out and saying that Sir Alex has all the
money he wants and that no one is off limits but the gaffer for his
part has almost effectively ruled out too many big money signings by
saying that he doesn’t see value in the market. Taking this into account, it’s more than likely that United are going to start the
2010-11 season with pretty much the same squad as last year, minus one or two and plus another one or two.
This is precisely the reason that I’d like to look at how United will shape up if the season were to begin tomorrow.
The first part: Defence
Let’s start with the last line of defence, the goalkeepers. With van der Sar donning the number 1 jersey for possibly the last season, we have a ‘keeper who maybe pushing 40 but is still one of the best around. His form, when he played last term was superb and brought that calming influence that inspired confidence in the defence. Tomas Kusczack is his undisputed deputy this year with Ben Foster off to Birmingham. Ben Amos completes the lineup. While many still question Kuszczack as number one material, the hunt for a new number one can indeed wait another year primarily because of vdn Der Sar’s age defying form. He is most certainly good for another year.
Let’s look at who we have in defence: Gary Neville, Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Ritchie De Laet, Rafael, Fabio, Patrice Evra and the in coming Chris Smalling.
Now this doesn’t look bad at all. After all, it was the same that was the best defence in the league last term (in spite of the absence of many of the players through various parts of the season.) Giorgio Chiellini has been linked with United but the biggest signing that Sir Alex has to make has to be that of Nemanja Vidic. What am I saying?
Well, there have been murmurs all through last season that Vidic (or more specifically his wife) are unsettled and these have gone from murmurs to whispers to full blown loud talks about Real Madrid in the hunt. Tying him down will be paramount.
With Rafael developing nicely, and Brown and O’Shea hopefully getting back to full fitness, United’s right-back options are looking pretty good. Throw the skipper into the mix and we have the experience to go along with the youth. Gary’s playing time might well be limited (even more than last season) but his experience will be invaluable.
Rio, Vidic, Evans. These seem certain to be the top 3 center backs in the team. Yet, with the dodgy fitness of Rio and the uncertainty over Vida, things don’t look as rosy. Evans has shown that he can ably deputize for Rio or Vida and will play a crucial role for sure. Brown and O’Shea can slot in at center back (or even Neville) but they will not be the preferred choice. De Laet, when he played last season still looked a bit raw but will only improve under the guidance of the senior pros whilst the incoming Chris Smalling is still an unknown quality and despite looking shaky for Fulham at the end of last season this could be put down to the move to Old Trafford playing on his mind.
With Patrice Evra now getting a welcome break (now that France are eliminated), United will look to him to provide another stellar season on the left flank. He was most definitely one of the, if not the, standout performers of last season. With Fabio as his understudy and O’Shea capably of filling in the left-back slot, things are looking pretty good.
That’s a round-up of the defence then. It does not look bad at all but what will probably be the decisive factor will be fitness. Provided everyone is fit (and everyone stays), this defence looks as good as any. Add the versatile Hargreaves into the mix and it doesn’t look bad at all.
Next up, the midfield.