“We’re shit and we’re top of the league, we’re shit and we’re top of the league.”
United made their way back to Carrington on Monday after 6 weeks to have fun in the sun and rest on their laurels after securing last year’s record breaking 19th Premier League title, as well as reaching their 3rd Champions League final in 4 years. After having the best start to a Premier League campaign since the 1991-2 season, a run which saw us go undefeated until a surprise result against Wolves ended that streak, United went on to secure not only the best home form in the league but in Europe and remained undefeated there for the entirety of the season, not a bad performance considering our squad was apparently weak in comparison to its predecessors. This season, on the other hand, will be a completely different kettle of fish and I think we all are pumped to see it get under way.
You don’t have to look any further than the dressing room at Old Trafford to realise how this season is, in effect, the beginnings of a new era at United. Ryan Giggs now remains the sole remaining player from Fergie’s Fledgelings after last season saw Paul Scholes and Gary Neville retire as well as the indomitable Edwin Van Der and United have already spent in excess of £50 million in an attempt by SAF to try and fill these holes and build a squad for the future. David De Gea, Ashley Young and Phil Jones have all joined the ranks and with an average age of just 21, these new signings are an indication of what SAF is trying to do. Ever since the Busby Babes, it has been traditional of United to nurture and create talent rather than simply bring it in and nothing looks to be changing; tipped as the future England captain, Phil Jones looks all the part one of the best defensive prospects in the world and in De Gea, SAF has bought the stand-out goalkeeping prospect in football right now and at a tender 20 years of age, he has the possibility to create a legacy at United comparable to that which Casillas has done at Real Madrid and Buffon has done at Juventus, an exciting prospect to say the least. As for Ashley Young, he was a surprising signing for most United fans but represents an immediate attacking threat that will only add to the depth of our squad. Only Sylvain Distin has played more minutes than Ashley Young in the past 5 Premier League seasons and that sort of consistency is probably a key reason as to why he bought him. We struggled last season when Valencia broke his ankle in November and to add a bit of healthy competition in the squad may help players up their game to get that coveted first XI spot.
It is not only with United that changes are rife. As is always the case at Stamford Bridge, they are replacing; Andre Villas-Boas comes in off the back of an undefeated season with FC Porto and a treble in his first season as a manager (Mourinho comparisons unavoidable) and looks to be a very dangerous man at the helm of Chelsea, considering what is at his disposal. It is unquestionably a huge gamble by Roman Abramovich to bring in a manager who is younger than Frank Lampard and only has 1 years experience as a manager, but I think Villas-Boas is the best signing Chelsea will make this year, making them a considerable danger again next season. It is likely that they will be buying players as well but with Fair Play rules coming into effect, Chelsea and Manchester City have been tentative in a transfer window United have stamped their authority in, as they try to balance their books for the up and coming implementation of the financial rules.
Manchester City will no doubt be boosted by the FA Cup victory last season and it would be only through red-tinted glasses that I could deny that they will be a genuine threat next season. On the contrary, however, I don’t think they will be winning the title next season but they will be pushing all the way and will only get stronger every season. They haven’t been particularly strong so far in the summer, with the only signing City have made so far being Clichy on a £7 million deal as they continue to collect Arsenal players but now that Tevez has once again re-iterated his desire to leave Manchester all together, there will no doubt still be a lot of movement to come as they look to Sheikh it up again. They will look to offload wage drainers like Adebayor, Bridge and Bellamy and replace them with other players in their typical football manager style but whether they bring in the right ones to make a genuine team, rather than one simply on paper, remains to be seen.
In my opinion, call it hyperbole if you wish, I don’t see as Arsenal as a threat whatsoever next season. The exodus at the club right now is a consequence of their tight budgeting that followed at the club since the construction of the Emirates and it has landed them in a horrible mess. With Fabregas and Nasri likely to follow Clichy out the exit door, who knows who will be their players next season and they may even struggle to make the top 4 next season. It is incredible the fall from grace that Arsenal have had since ‘The Invincibles’ but I guess that is what happens when you can’t hold on to a team.
If United finished the season as the strongest team in England following lifting the Premier League trophy, then this summer period so far has done nothing but make us look even stronger. Javier Hernandez won the Golden Boot at the Gold Cup with Mexico as well as the Player of the Tournament and the young Mexican player has risen to become a global star from a rough-edged player in just 12 months. If he can continue his progression into next season, and I have every confidence he will, then United may well have unearthed one of the best strikers of his generation. With 3 signings already secured before the tour of America starts on July 13th, United will go out and enjoy the 3 week training period and use it to build on the team confidence that will ooze out of every orifice thanks to the successes of last season. Hopefully it will rub off on David De Gea but considering he has just won the U21 Championships with Spain, he won’t find it difficult to adjust to playing with the best. Next season should be every bit as exciting and thrilling as the previous campaign was. Interestingly as well, if United can do the domestic double then we will have won our 20th Premier League title and our 12th FA Cup in the year 2012. Fate? I’d say so.