Key man: Robin Van Persie
Predicted position: 3rd
On Saturday afternoon at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium, Manchester United will kick off their first ever Premier League season without Sir Alex Ferguson, their first season in the top-flight without Fergie in the dugout since 1986.
Despite the fact that Sir Alex announced his retirement soon after United had lifted a record 20th league title and that the club moved swiftly to appoint David Moyes as successor, Ferguson’s retirement shocked players and fans alike and its momentous consequences have been felt through the summer and will undoubtedly linger through David Moyes’ first season at Old Trafford.
United, however, are a club which places far more emphasis on the future than on the past and, as David Moyes has stressed since being appointed manager in May, the club simply has to move on.
The transition between Ferguson and Moyes hasn’t been made easy by the many who doubts Moyes is of a high enough calibre to follow in the steps of arguably the greatest manager British football has ever seen, while the former Everton manager has come under intense scrutiny for his lack of activity throughout the transfer window.
While those doubting Moyes would do well to remember that the man was chosen personally by Sir Alex and has all the characteristics that made him a more appealing choice for the club than other fancier names – eye for youth development, stability, similar background to Sir Alex’s – United’s summer has been largely disappointing.
Having pursued first Thiago Alcantara and then Cesc Fabregas, Moyes failed to sign either, despite new chief-executive Ed Woodward’s claims that United won’t baulk at splashing cash around this summer.
Woodward, by many considered a sort of Glazers’ “yes man” has replaced David Gill in a very delicate role and his inexperience in the transfer window has been gravely exposed so far, with United displaying an embarrassing inappropriate strategy for a club aiming to defend their league title.
Moyes’ only signing so far has been Uruguayan right-back Guillermo Varela but, however promising he might be, the 20-year-old is expected to be a fringe player at best and fans are getting restless at the club’s inability to address the midfield issue that has plagued United for over five years now.
Michael Carrick was superb last season and the England midfielder will again be asked to get the team ticking, but United appear dangerously short of options in the engine room, where Tom Cleverley has shown promising signs but also an alarming lack of consistency, while Ryan Giggs will be 40 in November and the only surprising thing about Anderson is that he’s still at the club.
Things look marginally brighter in the wide areas where Wilfried Zaha impressed during the pre-season, while Nani and Antonio Valencia will be hoping to rediscover the form of three and two seasons ago respectively.
The Portuguese, in particular, was heavily linked with a move away from the club but he remains at Old Trafford at the time of writing and is thought to be desperate to seek a fresh start under David Moyes.
In Shinji Kagawa, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez United have enough to quality and goals to support Robin Van Persie, who’ll be eager to replicate the heroics of his debut season at the club.
The hopes of United fans hinge on the Dutchman who may or may not be partnered up-front by Wayne Rooney, after Moyes categorically denied that the wantaway striker would leave the club before the end of the transfer window.
While it’s quite clear that Rooney wants out of the club, it is also perfectly understandable why Moyes has refused to allow the 27-year-old to join Chelsea, but the striker’s future remains uncertain.
How will the fans respond? Will the possibility of leading England’s frontline in Brazil be enough of a motivation for Rooney to put his personal feud aside and rediscover the form of old?
Moyes has less to be worried about by United’s defensive unit, arguably the department in which the Scotsman has the biggest number of choice. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand seem to have put their fitness problems behind them, but Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are reliable understudies and Rafael can already be considered one of the best right-backs in the world.
His twin brother, Fabio, is expected to provide competition for Patrice Evra, particularly as Moyes’ plans of signing England’s left-back Leighton Baines seems to have been abandoned.
The Scots, however, could still turn to his former club for Marouane Fellaini, the sort of player who would provide United with the imposing physical presence they have lacked in midfield for too long now.
With just over two weeks until the transfer window shuts, Moyes is under pressure to land at least one big signing and a look at the opening five games of the season isn’t likely to fill him with optimism.
After their opening game at Swansea, United host Chelsea, before traveling to Liverpool and Manchester City with a home match against Crystal Palace sandwiched in between. A baptism of fire for the man who has replaced Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
How big an influence will Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement have on Manchester United this season? Can they retain the title and, more importantly, will David Moyes land one of his targets this summer?Let us know below or get in touch via our Facebook or Twitter.