Last May ended in heartbreak for Manchester United players and fans. Their “noisy neighbours”, Manchester City won the English title in dramatic circumstances; something that had forced the Red Devil faithful to stand up and take notice. Manchester City had emerged outside of Manchester United’s shadows proving what a dominant force in English football they now are. It was tough but when you look at the season in retrospect, maybe the Citizens had done enough to win the Barclays Premier League crown but they were surely aided by some indecisive outings by Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges. The 1-0 away loss to Wigan and the damning 4-4 home draw to Everton were the games that shifted the title race towards the sky blue corner of Manchester. However, the players and the gaffer have stated that they are eager to win the title and prove that time and time again, the Red Devils will always have a response. Chelsea’s dominance in the middle part of the new millennium was shattered with 3 straight titles in 2007, 2008, 2009. This shows how determined Manchester United is but Manchester City is a new type of challenger and the Red Devils must respond accordingly. In fact, they have prepared themselves to do so with the acquisitions of Japanese play maker, Shinji Kagawa from German champions, Dortmund and young English hotshot, Nick Powell from Crewe Alexandria. Clearly an answer to the demands of fans (including myself) for a marquee signing or somebody who can create the magic that is seen from David Silva or Juan Mata. However, the response itself to the Manchester City puzzle will be on the pitch when the season kicks off for Man United on the 20th of August at Everton. The Red Devils must begin with a good result and keep themselves in the hunt from the beginning. Falling away too early will result in chasing the rest of the leading pack and sometimes, things do not end as expected.
Home games must be dominated and won especially against the other sides that will be competing for the title. Save the home loss to Manchester City, games against Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, and Arsenal were all won and this trend must hold this season but it’s the away form against these same sides that must looked at. Losses to Man City and draws against Liverpool, Chelsea all had an impact on how the season ended last season.
But these permutations will remain wishful thoughts if the playing body cannot live up to the task. Some of the players must improve on their last season performances. Ashley Young and Nani must show more of the skill and talent they possess to win over more fans. The Portuguese winger must do more in that regard because his abilities are not in doubt. The 2010/2011 season shows how can well he can change games but with Valencia excelling down the right, Nani must recreate himself either down the left or through the middle to have more influence in the team. I believe his skills are good enough to be deployed through the middle. Carrick’s brilliance from last season will be needed if Kagawa’s 17 goals and 10 assists from last season (with Dortmund) will be replicated.However, if Kagawa is Manchester United’s response to say David Silva, how will they answer to the Yaya Toure question? The season will hopefully provide the answer. The rear guard must also show more bite and strength if the title will be won from Manchester City. Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Rafael, and especially Evra must give play far better than they did last season. The home draws against Basel and Everton laid Evra’s weaknesses bare and perhaps, spurred on Sir Alex Ferguson to find cover for the Frenchman. Whether that search is successful or not, Evra must improve. Javier Hernandez must also do same in front of goal. His poor touch ruined many good opportunities that could have been the goals the team lacked as the final analysis (8 goal difference between the top 2 teams) reveals.
A lot can be wished for but in reality, the team must continue with the things that have produced the needed results from times past. There should be the recognition of the fact that Manchester City are now challengers. They have the psychological advantage, they have the belief, they have the players to translate that belief into something tangible on the pitch but most importantly, they have the funds to purchase whoever they wish. Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham will also be present to complicate matters. However, Manchester United always rise from the ashes like the phoenix and the players and the entire team must prove this notion right to themselves and the fans. They just must.
Bring on next season!
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