Memphis Depay and Wayne Rooney celebrate on the opening day of the season against Spurs
Not since last pre-season has a pre-season been full of such optimism and positivity as the pre-season right here. By the time you read this, the league will likely have kicked off and all good vibes will be dead in the water, but let’s live within the next two days for all of eternity and bask in the possibility that maybe this could be the year of Manchester United.
I mean sure, Rafael da Silva may have been unceremoniously dumped from the club despite his passion and sheer lust for starting fights with people, but this is “the biggest club in the world” (a registered trademark of Manchester United Incoming Transfers Ltd) and damn it, our time has come again. The David Moyes train has derailed; all aboard the Van Gaalamotive!(I wholeheartedly apologise to anyone who has ever held a modicum of respect for me. Let us never speak of that line again.)
Depay, Shaw and Darmian will be a success…
It took a little bit of time and work, but Juan Mata and Ander Herrera struck gold at the tail end of last season and staked real claims for their starting positions. The inevitable queasiness regarding Angel di Maria has been numbed by the probability that Mata retains his spot for this campaign, which begs the question of how our newest signings will fare as well.
All eyes will immediately land on Memphis Depay, a player who could conceivably take the Premier League by the type of storm seen only in Eden Hazard’s performances. It has long been said that Manchester City, Chelsea and even Arsenal have that one key attacking player who can make things happen, something United have lacked probably since Ronaldo left for Madrid. In Depay, a level head and a course in United history should steer him onto the right path.
Behind him, new right back Matteo Darmian has excited Serie A fanatics and it is sensible to consider that our issues down the flanks could be a thing of the past. Now, I grant you that playing a broom stick with a pillow tied to it would probably do as good as job as Antonio Valencia, but the young Italian has a chance at locking down the position for years to come. Similarly, Luke Shaw is due a star performance and a lack of injuries could give him the time needed to be the player expected of him.
…just like Rafael should have been
All this talk about full backs is making me nostalgic. Aww, remember Rafael? The beautiful little Brazilian who once threatened Carlos Tevez just because he could? Yes, okay, he didn’t fare too well against Ronaldo when their paths crossed, but no one remembers that. They only remember the time he stood up to four Liverpool players because he is a bad ass with zero fucks to give. What a babe.
What an excellent midfield we have…
How many years have we spent, collectively begging for someone to buy a midfielder who wasn’t Anderson? Let’s face it, we’ve been relying on Michael Carrick and a postbox in a wig. Now though, our riches seem almost embarrassing. Morgan Schneiderlin has been the engine of Southampton for as long as we can remember. Bastian Schweinsteiger is a World Cup-winning world class veteran who has played at the highest level for years. Ander Herrera has shot through a mist of negativity to make midfield his own. Carrick acts as the metronome for our entire flow of play. Daley Blind has beautiful hair. For the first time in forever, our midfield is something to behold.
It’s easy to bemoan the lack of a defensive wall but don’t underestimate the new and improved central line-up. Van Gaal has eased the pressure on his back line, which could lift the performances with higher levels of confidence. That confidence extends backwards to the goalkeeper too, whoever he may be come September. There’s nothing worse than a pathetic midfield and United can finally boast anything other than pathetic. Majestic may be the word now.
…nearly as good as Rafael and Fabio as wingers
Majestic. Perhaps like Rafael, the fidgeting midget who was entrusted with his brother to face Arsenal in an FA Cup Quarter Final as a winger. As it turns out, twins have some kind of sixth sense which allows them to play in perfect unison, so much so that a midfield comprised of three defenders and Darron Gibson wiped the floor with the Gunners, winning 2-0 and moving into the semis. It may have seemed brave at the time, but looking back you wonder how it never happened more often.
The reds will smash the Champions League…
When the history books are rewritten, Moyes’ tenure will go down as an almighty blip, one that took the club out of the prestigious Champions League and left with a mountain to climb. This time, they’re back and this time it’s going to get personal.
Louis van Gaal is a manager of champions. Bundesligas, La Ligas and, yes, a Champions Liga. There is no doubt in this mind of mine that the manager knows exactly what is required of him and the strength of depth across the field simply highlights the importance of having as many players available as possible. This is going to be a challenge, but nothing that the Dutchman is ever going to shy away from.
In real terms, United have only been absent for a year. This isn’t a City-style transition into European football; the reds know exactly how to play the game. Lady luck may need to be on United’s side with the group stage (if they actually make it there; for the sake of this article, let’s just assume they do), but this is a team that can really make strides against worthy opposition. Olympiacos will be nothing but an ancient dream.
…like Rafael smashed our hearts
Speaking of dreams, let’s talk about the dreamboat that is Rafael: the people’s champion. The people’s choice. The people’s princess. We shall never forget all the wonderful memories he brought us – the long range screamers, the defensive frailties, the needless red cards, the time he wore a t-shirt of himself with Sir Alex Ferguson on the last day of Fergie’s Old Trafford stint.
Be still, my defensive darling. I wish you nothing but the best at Lyon and hope that they show you even half the love that we have for you here at Manchester United (the biggest club in the world, remember!) and all over the world. My laminated shrine to you may no longer be on the wall due to your move and a couple of written warnings from the landlord, but my heart will always be laminated for you. Whatever that means.
Oh, and Manchester United will finish 3rd. Now pass some tissues and leave me alone.