On August 17, 2013 for the first time in 26 years, Manchester United fans will look to the start of a new season without one of the greatest managers of all time. For the first time in 26 years a new pair of shoes will pace the sidelines of Old Trafford and for the first time in 26 years Manchester United enter a season with more questions than answers. Stepping into the managerial seat at any of the big clubs around the world- the Bayern Munich’s, Real Madrid’s of the world always bring high expectations, but when you are replacing the man who has embodied Manchester United, well then the pressure is intense.
Whatever the case David Moyes has accepted the challenge and oh what a challenge it will be. While some foolishly argue that United’s 11 point win last year showed they were truly the class of the EPL, that point means nothing going into a new season. United’s main competitors last season Manchester City and Chelsea both brought in new managers and have both made expensive additions to squads that were already arguably more talented than United’s.
Moyes will know that any success United has had in the past will mean nothing if he can not develop and build his own winning squad. As if the pressure of coming into a club as big as Manchester United was not enough, Moyes has been dealt the dilemma of what to do with supposedly want-away striker Wayne Rooney. Ever since he was left out of the starting lineup late last season rumors have been rife that the England striker would push for an exit and so far he has said nothing to put those rumors to rest. New / old Chelsea boss Jose Mourhino has stated that capturing Rooney is his only goal this transfer window and so far United have rejected two bids from the Stamford Bridge outfit.
Rooney has not featured publicly for United in their pre season jaunts with the club listing a number of ailments which Rooney apparently has and Moyes has steadfastly maintained that Rooney will not be sold, but as it has been seen too often in the past when the money offered is right, anyone can be sold. Even though the transfer kitty available to Moyes must be massive in comparison to what he had to work with while at Everton, he has yet to make any additions to the squad. United have made one purchase so far this transfer window – Uruguay youngster Guillermo Varela but he is not expected to challenge for a spot just yet. The one area that United have struggled with for some time is in the midfield and Moyes has tried to make a couple of additions there twice looking at Barcelona players – Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas. Alcantara instead opting to reunite with his old Manager Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich while Barcelona refused to sell Cesc who also maintained he wanted to stay at the Nou Camp. Rumor has it that now Moyes will look to his former midfield star at Everton; Marouane Fellaini but questions remain as to if he will be able to fill the void that United has had in midfield for a number of years. Michael Carrick has evolved into United’s unheralded star in midfield and for all the glamour that Robin Van Persie received last year (rightly deserved I will add) it is hard to see how United could have had the season they did without the steady determined influence which Carrick brought game after game. United did decline to loan former Crystal Palace Winger Wilfred Zaha back to the team and so far he has looked quite lively in pre-season in the wide areas which is an area where United will have to improve on.
The trio of Nani, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia were wildly inconsistent and Zaha may prove to be just the tonic needed to push that trio back into form. so with no new additions as yet (Moyes maintains that he is looking to bring in reinforcements) United will look to see further improvements from youngsters like Danny Welbeck and especially Tom Cleverly. Cleverly seemed to be on the edge of cementing a place in the first team squad but too often when playing more physical midfielders he tended to fade and he will need to show that he can withstand not being overrun physically but that he can also be imposing on other midfielders. Anderson at times also looked ready to take stewardship of the midfield, physicality not being an issue for him at all, but he often struggled to stay healthy and so he too cannot be counted on. If he is able to somehow stay on the field for the full season he could be the creative midfield enforcer that has been sorely lacking; Adnan Januzaj is an interesting player for the team. A relative unknown to the casual United fan until late last season he has been a regular in preseason and has not looked out of place at all. With poise and creativity he has the potential to be something special. At just 18 years of age; he will need to be eased into the first squad gradually. Physically he is still growing and will require some more strength to handle the ruggedness of the EPL. Upfront Moyes will continue to look to Robin Van Perise to lead the line knowing that even in this time of transition the Dutchman can keep the team focused and on track for a possible 14th EPL Title. Shinji Kagawa had spurts of brilliance and as the season wore on he looked more and more comfortable which can only mean good things for United’s attack. Danny Welbeck continues to be an enigma; talented, versatile but prone to errors and lapses. Depending on what happens with Rooney, Chicharito will become even more vital.
The defense for the first time in a while looks like an area of stability. Assuming that Captain Vidic stays healthy Moyes has a slew of players to match him with. Rio Ferdinand’s back will always be an issue but the former England defender has learnt how to manage it more effectively. Formerly error prone Johnny Evans became very reliable last year while Chris Smalling and Phil Jones both at times marshaled the back line with steady aplomb. It is unclear as to ultimately where Moyes will decide to utilize Phil Jones. He has shown that as either a lockdown midfielder or a central defender he can be fantastic but being still relatively young he has had lapses in concentration which if he can overcome will at some point lead to him being a possible United superstar.
So where does that leave United? a team with a new manager, relatively the same players (minus one sulking star) and a legion of fans staring into the unknown. Can the team stay healthy? Without any new marquee additions will the youngsters be able to provide the depth. Will David Moyes be able to shoulder the pressure of leading a team supported by 330 million fans that play in front of 80,000 plus on a weekly basis. Ultimately unless some additions are made before the transfer window closes. The one answer that Moyes can go to sleep at night knowing is that United’s attacking and defending options look deep and once every player puts on that shirt, the winning mentality that has been instilled in the fabric of United will push each and every player to try their best. Will that be enough, now that is the biggest question of all. Eight months from now we will all have received that answer.
Written by Michael Mark