We are top of the table and not just winning, but winning in style and by a good margin of goals too. Rooney looks better than ever, our injury problems have barley been noticed with the players coming in as replacements making more than a strong case to remain there. Even De Gea is repaying the faith Fergie has shown in him and looks better and more confident with every passing game.
Our attention now turns to the UEFA Champions League, the competition that after last seasons’ crushing defeat by the reigning champions of Europe and Spain, Barcelona, prompted the restructuring of the squad and a great deal of transfer activity this past summer.
The board and fans both realised that steps had to be made in order to compete with what looked like the greatest club side the world had ever seen, with masses of individual talents in players like Leo Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, and also a team ethos and a will to win. This accompanied by the fact our squad was facing a number of retirements that summer with key players in the twilights of their careers led to us delving into the market.
Fergie knew action needed to be taken if history was not to repeat itself and a young crop of players were purchased – and have done much better than expected, lighting up the domestic league and adding to what was already a great squad. When you also factor in a certain striker that goes by the name of Wayne Rooney and the breath taking form he is in, United look a formidable force.
It is true that Barca also bought in the summer, Cesc Fabregas and the Chilean Sanchez were the marquee signings of choice, yet they are both attacking players. No defensive reinforcements were bought in, with Guardiola choosing to hope the forwards would always score one more than the opposition. The option of playing with three ‘centre backs’ has been employed thus far, yet it seems strange to consider Sergio Busquettes a centre back, and Barcelona do look prone to conceding the odd goal. Defensively there remains question marks, and whilst as an attacking force they look as good as ever, elsewhere on the park they may suffer when injuries and suspensions strike.
United will certainly fancy their chances of avenging the events of last May, but it would be foolish to solely look at Barcelona as our only threat on the European stage.
Real Madrid look just as good as Barcelona do, if not better at times, and under the second season of Jose Mourinho, much is expected of them, and they will be going all out to win the Champions league this term. Likewise the Italian sides. There is always tough competition from Italy, and places like the San Siro are tough grounds to visit for the away leg of a tie. As with last season, the possibility of drawing an English side is never out of the question, and although City are new to the competition, they look stronger than ever this season. It is always difficult when playing a side you know so well domestically in the UCL, as we found during our ties with Chelsea, and there are always surprises that get thrown up.
Before we even begin to think about the knock out stages, we firstly have to navigate our group, starting with a tricky tie in Lisbon against Benfica. We will be expecting the win, yet this is a tough game and players will have to be on the top of their game to get a result out there. This will be the first game in the UCL for many of our new signings, and nerves may be inevitable, yet our quality is expected to shine through and a win by a two goal margin – or more – would get us off to a flying start and send a message to the rest of the group.
It is vital to win the group in order to gain a more favourable draw in the first knockout round, and this is our first target. Fergie will not allow the players to get ahead of themselves and become consumed by winning the competition so early on, yet we are certainly one of the favourites, and as fans it doesn’t hurt to dream!