Steph D writes for The Faithful:
If you read any pre-season predictions you’ll probably notice there have only been two responses to “Who will win the Premier League this year?” The obvious answers of Chelsea and Manchester City are coming forward in swarms by journalists, pundits and ex-pros alike.
For Chelsea, they haven’t ventured too heavily in the transfer market as things stand (Andre Schurrle remains their only big name acquisition) but the return of the Happy One is perhaps their most vital signing of all. No doubt the “Mourinho factor” will boost the London side and they will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
Meanwhile our neighbours the other side of Manchester haven’t missed a trick and appear to have got the bulk of their summer trade organised early on in the transfer window. At present they have spent an approximate £87m on a decent looking set of players and have also sacked off their golf swinging leech.
But one big name is absent from all this title-winning talk. No , not Liverpool (it’s their season y’know), but Manchester United – the reigning, record breaking champions. And do you know what? That’s absolutely fine with me.
As soon as Sir Alex Ferguson announced his impending retirement on 8th May I think every single football fan in across the country thought “is this the end of their success?” Incoming boss David Moyes perhaps hasn’t completely dispelled some of those thoughts with mediocre pre-season performances and a lack of movement in the transfer market. However taking that gargantuan expectation off Moyes for a season (or two) might actually be the most important factor in United’s long term future.
Don’t get me wrong, the pressure will be there. Lose a couple matches in our tough opening run and there will be numerous Twitter warriors overusing #MoyesOut. But for most to assume the title is a two-horse race is perfect. Personally, I don’t really expect Moyes to win the title in his first season and I don’t think it’s fair to assume he will. I also don’t think a second or third placed finish will be the absolute disaster some might say it is. Our squad is still transitioning, there will be new training methods and a bedding in process for all the fresh staff (Chief Ex’s included – come to think of it, where is Ed?).
It would be fair to argue the same with both Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and Manuel Pellegrini at City but when working with players who are used to their managers coming and going more often than the Fabregas saga, perhaps their own bedding in process is a little easier.
Something that appears to have been missed by many over the summer is that this United squad is pretty much the same as the one which blitzed the league last season. Almost certainly Wayne Rooney will depart (*Not to Chelsea please*) but signings will come. Fellaini and Baines look possible (certainly the former), Fabregas and Ronaldo continue to be linked (neither will happen, the sooner we get over this the better), Zaha looks good, we saw some decent displays in Asia from our youth players and Michael Carrick is finally getting the credit he deserves. All in all we haven’t actually got a bad squad at all.
Problems will happen over at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad. Jose will once again want to take the limelight at Chelsea, which isn’t a massive issue per se, but as we saw towards the end of his last tenure at the club it did have a negative impact. Coupled with their quite shoddy defence, their aging core (Terry, Cole and Lampard) and Fernando Torres (a problem in itself), perhaps everything won’t be quite so rosy at Cobham during those cold winter months. Meanwhile Pellegrini will no doubt face the same issues as his predecessors, how do you keep that entire squad happy? Especially in a World Cup year when top players want, and need, to be playing regularly.
All things considered I’d suggest the future isn’t bleak at United, far from it. We’re entering a new era that no-one can easily predict. For the time being however I will say this to the media: keep knocking Moyes, keep saying this is Chelsea/City’s title to lose, keep questioning our transfers (or lack of). All of that is fine. If we do well this season, excellent. If we don’t win anything, ok it’ll be disappointing but Moyes is in this for the long haul. Take that pressure on him in the early months and let our team do the talking. As we’ve done time and time again, United never die.