2013/14 Manchester United season preview

David Moyes will be hoping Robin van Persie will fire Manchester United to another title

Every season its the same. The predictions, the hope of glory in ten months time, the arguing with rivals fans up and down the country as we’re all on a level playing field – yes, the league campaign kicks off on Saturday. Fast forward to the end of each season from the dreamy summers of 92, 98 and 2012 and you will see Fergie’s hands around yet another trophy, will May 2014 see David Moyes’ debut season at Old Trafford end in triumph? Take a look at what we think below in our preview special.

1. Predictions for this season for United. League, Europe, domestic cups

Bricki: Top 3 in the league, quarter finals in Europe and an FA Cup win finally.

Mark: As it stands, I feel things will begin difficultly, as they’re prone to doing at United, and will begin to level out over the course of the season. Every new season begins with uncertainty, but for obvious reasons pessimism is apparent amongst many supporters right now. I don’t quite envision the meltdown that some are predicting, and when things get going I don’t expect us to be much different from what we have been like in recent years: efficient but not overly exciting. Last year’s league success, and in the way in which it was attained, surprised me. I didn’t expect us to win so many games and I certainly didn’t expect our rivals to be so far behind come May’s end. We haven’t turned into a bad team since then, but Chelsea and City, revitalised by managerial changes and player acquisitions, will be significantly stronger.

Stretford_End:I always naively think United will win it all, but I’ll opt for another league title, quarter finals of Europe and semi final of FA Cup.

El Rob:
League: 1st, only because I say this every year. If we don’t bring any quality midfielders in before the window closes, I think we’ll most likely finish 3rd.
Europe: A second-round defeat – hopefully one that’s less painful than last season’s European exit. Anything beyond that would be a major bonus, given the number of quality sides in the competition and the fact that it’s Moyes’ first Champions League campaign.
FA Cup: Our best chance of a trophy this season, I reckon. I’ll go bold and say we’ll win it. This is mostly wish-thinking, as it’ll be ten years since we last won it, and – despite its many flaws – it’s still a competition I like a lot.
League Cup: I’ll say semis – but to be honest, the most important thing is to give young, exciting players some first team experience. Assuming they aren’t loaned out before the window closes, it’d be great to see the likes of Ben Amos, the Keane brothers, Marnick Vermijl, Larnell Cole, Jesse Lingard, Adnan Januzaj and Wilf Zaha get a good run in this competition.

Doron: As the various squads stand I think United will come third in the league, make the quarter finals in the Champions League and I fancy a couple of good cup runs. On the basis that we’ve not won the FA Cup for too long, I always seem to back us in it!

2. Is David Moyes the right man for United?

Bricki: Yes so we need to get behind him.

Mark: I have absolutely no idea right now and won’t until a year from now. I won’t have too many complaints if we fail to win a cup next season. We’re moving into a new, uncertain, but admittedly exciting in United’s history. I expect the early reaction from supporters will be lamentable, as everything will be unfairly and irrationally scrutinised and compared to the incomparable achievements of Fergie. I’m not looking for major successes this year, but I do desire to see signs that things will work out long-term. Moyes needs to do things the way he believes they should be done, while being mindful of United’s rich history for attacking and fearless football. I suspect we won’t see too much of a drastic change from the way we’re used to. I do, however, think he’ll get the players working a little harder, pressing more and defending higher up the pitch – issues that were very clearly problematic in recent years. My primary fear is that because of the size and nature of the job, the pressure may take its toll on him. Appointing him was a risk, but it’s one that I believed at the time was worth taking. I still think it was a sensible choice, but I currently just don’t know if it will work out well yet.

Stretford_End: When the news broke that Sir Alex Ferguson was retiring at the end of the season, I immediately thought that only Jose Mourinho could replace him. I thought Mourinho is a born winner and, like Sir Alex, can take the heat off his players but taking all of the attention himself. Having said that, Mourinho wants instant success and doesn’t have a great track record in nurturing young talent, something that in engrained within United’s DNA. When David Moyes was announced as Ferguson’s successor, I think I was still in shock that the great man was retiring.

Having thought about it in more detail over the summer, David Moyes does make sense for United and the six year contract indicates he will be given time, even if the trophies do not come in the first few season. Succeeding Fergie is a daunting task and Moyes will have his work cut out, but the great man will no doubt be on hand to offer advise in what will be Moyes’ debut season at Old Trafford.

El Rob: In the circumstances, I think so. In an ideal world, it would’ve been nice to have more exciting names like Guardiola or Villas-Boas, or a success machine like Mourinho. But in an ideal world Fergie would be immortal and he’d be the Manchester United manager forever. Back to Moyes – it’s been a difficult summer and he will continue to face unfamiliar challenges during his first year in the job. Still, there have been some good signs, not least his openness to youth – and it would be foolish to write him off before we’ve even played a competitive match. For me, patience is the operative word. We cannot expect the same level of success after losing the greatest manager ever, but I think United can continue to be a force if we give the new guy some time.

Doron: Right in that he’s someone who’ll attempt to carry on the traditions of the club? Yes. Right in that United will continue to be as successful as they were before? No idea. Ultimately, no manager will have the same success as Alex Ferguson but for me, I wanted his replacement to be someone coming in for the long-term, someone who recognises and tries to adhere to the values of the club and I think Moyes is the right person for that role.

3. What have you made of our transfer dealings so far.

Bricki: Zaha looks really promising but the midfield black hole needs addressing or else we will struggle

Mark: Um, uninspiring, to say the least…..The identified players have shown encouraging signs that we are, at the very least, attempting to bring the right players in the right positions in. The fruitless pursuits, overanalysed and made tedious by everyone studying them, have been disheartening. The manner of those pursuits, particularly the Fabregas one, was questionable on the face of it, but it’s difficult to query the merits of public bidding unless you’re directly involved in the process itself. There was clearly some form of encouragement there, and there still might be, but it’s tough to sign great players from great clubs. United need a boost, as things are a little awry right now, but let’s see what happens between now and the month’s end. I think they know they need something to happen, because failing to spend will certainly put the team in an unwanted vulnerable state. It would also massively increase the pressure on Moyes, whose reign needs to go as smoothly as possible during the season’s early stages.

Stretford_End: The chase for Fabregas was laughable. Great player, but why on earth did United court a player who didn’t want to go and surely Fabregas could have done his press conference a little early in the summer? I doubt a multimillionaire talent footballer needs his ego stroked anymore? Zaha will be a good player at United.

El Rob: What transfer dealings? I haven’t seen Varela play. The best that can be said about our summer in the transfer window is that: 1) Moyes realises our weakness in central midfield (the weakness Fergie neglected for 5 years) and 2) our targets – Fabregas, Thiago, Modric (apparently), Fellaini and Baines – have mostly been sensible ones. Apart from that, the lack of signings is thoroughly depressing, though I would be quick to avoid blaming either Moyes or executive whipping boy Ed Woodward for that. More relevant is the fact that, in the eyes of the very top players, United currently lacks the glamour of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, and can’t compete with the money of PSG, Monaco, Man City and Chelsea. It’s not that United suddenly isn’t a great club, but right now it’s not among the top destinations for many of the world’s best players. United doesn’t have a divine right to these things, it’s just how football goes sometimes – look at Milan and Inter for example. Anyway, we’ve still got a fine squad as it stands – and who knows, maybe we’ll see some top talent come in before September 2.

Doron: What dealings? Enlighten me! Just Guillermo Varela in, been a bit underwhelming really but Moyes is making the right noises in terms of CMs so there’s still hope.

4. Who do you think will be brought in and who should be brought in.

Bricki: No idea who except maybe Fellaini. If he does come in I think we still need a more ‘creative’ player to support.

Mark: Not sure. I think two will arrive and I think one may well be Fellaini. I have no issue with him signing. A good player who has played really well in recent years. He knows the league, doesn’t tend to hide, is combative and relatively composed for a man of his size, and he scores goals. The issue is good players don’t always properly fit into good sides. It’s fine to say a good player should be bought, but you need to ensure he’ll compliment whoever it is he’s played alongside. He would make us a better side, and give us a good option, but we need a little more than that, too. I’d be more than pleased if he was one of two midfielders signed, the other being a more all round creative outlet. Fabregas would unquestionably have been an outstanding acquisition, a player who harbours all the qualities that United need in the middle to truly be a great side and compete at the highest level once more. Right now, it seems improbable. There are other players out there, but availability and potential fees are problematic. Besides, I don’t enjoy dwelling too much on targets, or trying to personally identify players who United should pursue. That’s a challenge for the scouts, not supporters.

Stretford_End: Who knows what Ed Woodward has up his sleeve, or indeed – where he is. If you’re talking fantasy signings, Ronaldo or Bale would be unbelievable but more realistically I’ve always thought Luka Modric would be a great signing for United and would work really well with Michael Carrick. I’m also a fan of the Turkish boy at Dortmund, Gundogan.

El Rob: 1) Nobody. 2) Of the available, believable targets, Modric and Fellaini.

Doron: Fellaini will be brought in and I’ve no problem with that. I think he’ll add some much needed physicality to our midfield, particularly in Europe. He’s a goal threat and a solid technical footballer. I’d like to think he’d be one of two additions in that area though – as for a name for the other one, no idea.

5. Which youngster would you like to see be involved this term.

Bricki: Nick Powell – the boy is a star in the making no doubt.

Mark: Obvious answer, for obvious reasons: Januzaj. Like many, his steady progress has pleasantly surprised me. It was clear in his earlier days that he had a chance, but the climb from youth and reserve level to first team football is gargantuan; I remember seeing him in Cork last summer – he showed flashes of rarefied brilliance, but looked fragile and a considerable way off. 12 months later and it’s difficult to say he should be held back any longer. He has added the components that are needed to make it: aggression, a willingness to get involved physically and creatively, and watching him I just sense that he has the required amount of belief, some may say healthy arrogance, that he thinks he deserves to be out there as much as any other player does. I’m very much intrigued to see how frequently he’ll feature this year.

Stretford_End: Jesse Lingard has had a decent pre season, lets hope he can push on this season. It is a shame to see Pogba flourishing in Turin and Ravel Morrison is getting rave reviews for his pre season performances for West Ham. Lets hope a youngster can break through this season.

El Rob: Januzaj, Zaha and Lingard all impressed immensely on the tour. I adore Adnan’s vision and technical ability, but he still seems a bit too slight for first team football at this point. I think Zaha will of making a big impact this season. But of the three, I’d love to see Jesse get some solid games in the league and cup competitions. It wasn’t just the preseason goals that excited me – though they were of exceptional quality. I was most enthused about the maturity he showed on the ball, rarely giving it away, always seeking out the best option, and executing it to a very high standard. He’ll probably be loaned out again this season, but if not, Jesse should be given every opportunity to shine at United.

Doron: I think we’ve already been given a taste of Adnan Januzaj and clearly he’s much closer to being ready than anyone could have imagined. I’m not sure anyone else is quite there yet – certainly a loan makes sense for Michael Keane and maybe Lingard can be on the bench on occasions. In the cups I’d like to see Larnell Cole play more (very unlucky not to go on tour due to the U20 WC) and I’d love to see debuts for Tom Thorpe and Sam Johnstone. Will Keane may also close in on the first team depending on how his comeback from injury goes.

6. Wayne Rooney. Whats happening.

Bricki: Money talks, money walks… Dirty cash – he wants a change it seems

Mark: Dependent on a number of factors. I think if United make a significant signing, they would be more willing to offload. I can understand their unwillingness to bow down to the player’s demands, but part of me would rather take the biggest risk and begin the season cheering on players who really want to be there. There are two sides to it, and neither is very pleasant: we keep him, not strengthen Chelsea and risk having a poisonous influence in the dressing-room, or we sell him and risk losing out on the title as a result. No one knows the workings of Rooney’s mind, so it’s difficult to predict how he’ll readjust if he’s not allowed to leave. My issue is playing a player who doesn’t want to be here, while others who do and who deserve their chances sit on the bench, rightly pissed off with the entire situation. Ideally, he would have moved abroad, but that’s not happening. I think there’s still a good chance he’ll leave.

Stretford_End: At the start of the summer I thought he was off, but United are really playing hardball with Chelsea or any potential buyer. Wayne Rooney, on his day, is a world class player – but he was well below par last season and has displayed inconsistency in his goal scoring over the past few seasons. I do still think there comes a time where you have to go your separate ways, but letting Rooney go to Chelsea could be catastrophic. If a player doesn’t want to be there, then yes – its best if they leave, but that is much easier said than done.

El Rob: Ugh. Everything that I need to say has been said already, and with more style, by Herzog’s Child. Next.

Doron: The player clearly wants to leave. Moyes recognises United are better for having him and probably wants to assert that he is in charge by having a strong stance and not budging. I think that Chelsea are the only side in for him means United are in a strong position to resist offers but if Chelsea come back with say £40m, would United really turn that down? There’s also the issue of replacing him – we’ve already seen how hard it is to sign anyone let alone someone of Rooney’s influence, experience and quality despite his average last couple of seasons.

7.Who are United’s biggest rivals this season.

Bricki: City and Chelsea.

Mark: Chelsea and Manchester City.

Stretford_End: City and Mourinho’s Chelsea.

El Rob: City and Chelsea.

Doron: City and Chelsea, no doubts.

8. Who will be in the top four and in what order.

Bricki: City, United, Chelsea, Arsenal – controversial I know.

Mark: Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal

Stretford_End: United, City, Chelsea, Arsenal

El Rob: If Rooney doesn’t go to Chelsea: 1. City, 2. Chelsea, 3. United, 4. Arsenal. If Rooney gets his wish, reverse the top two.

Doron: As squads stand: City, Chelsea, United and then one of Spurs or Arsenal, it’s going to be tight again between them.

9. Thoughts on other clubs. One sentence each to sum up City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool

Manchester City – will be exciting to watch I feel
Chelsea – Jose will try and recreate his old Chelsea side and fall short
Arsenal – need some signings but still expect a better team than last few years
Tottenham Hotspur – mammoth midfield but few strikers and Bale could be crucial
Liverpool – same old same old it seems – need to concentrate on themselves and making baby steps not big strides

Manchester City – Good signings, less background issues, will probably miss Tevez. A real threat.
Chelsea – Our biggest threat, revitalised by the Odious One. Will be extremely difficult to beat.
Arsenal – Finished well last season, but still incapable of threatening unless quality is bought.
Tottenham Hotspur – Will run Arsenal very close if Bale stays. If not, they’ll be edged out into 5th again.
Liverpool – Again, dependent on keeping their best player. They’ll be much like last year.

Manchester City – Pellegrini is a good manager and they’ve gone about their business very well this summer. Will be much closer this season.
Chelsea – Jose Mourinho is a world class manager and the Premier League is a better place for having him back. Will be contenders.
Arsenal – Wenger’s apparent transfer chest is a bit of a surprise. Buying Suarez is controversial, but he would be an excellent signing for the way Arsenal play.
Tottenham Hotspur – Keeping Gareth Bale is key. If he stays they could get fourth spot, but then again – they should have got it last season.
Liverpool – The Luis Suarez situation is comical and perhaps they shouldn’t have supported him in the Evra and Ivanovic incidents. Just because a player plays for your club doesn’t mean you have to defend him when is in the wrong.

El Rob
Manchester City: They’ve had an annoyingly good summer – upgraded their manager, strengthened their midfield and attack, and shipped out the remaining problem children – as things stand right now, I think they’re favourites for the league.
Chelsea: Mourinho’s back, but they’ve got a slightly dodgy midfield – if they get Rooney, that probably swings the league.
Arsenal: In July it looked like they’d strengthen a lot, but there’s been predictably little activity since then – Suarez would be a big boost, but I still can’t see them being a genuine contender.
Spurs: Whether or not Bale goes (I think he’ll be off next summer), they’ve had a great few months – Capoue and Soldado are fine acquisitions – and AVB is a personal favourite of mine, I can see them winning things if he’s given sufficient time and money.
Liverpool: They remain an irrelevance.

Manchester City: under the radar in that people seem to be focussing on Moyes/Mourinho. I think whilst none of their signings are world-beaters, they’re very smart additions and they’ve got great depth in terms of attacking talent.
Chelsea:the circus is back! Clearly a very exciting looking side with so many talented youngsters and Mourinho at the helm. A fair amount may hinge on mental strength of the younger players, managing burn-out and if Lukaku is to be the main man, whether he can step up now.
Arsenal:they’ve not really changed from last year yet so I expect more of the same… entertaining football but patches of poor form that’ll ultimately see them battling for fourth again.
Tottenham Hotspur: really like the additions of Soldado and Paulinho. They’ve got Sandro and Kaboul back from long-term injuries so there’s a good strong core to their team. Even so, they’ll be up against Arsenal’s know-how again in terms of getting over the line for fourth.
Liverpool: they’ve made some smart additions but I don’t think they’re any closer to the top four than they were last year.

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