The first few games of the season will be a strange experience for most Manchester United fans. For the first time in 26 years, when they look over to the touchline, they will not be greeted by the reassuring figure of Sir Alex Ferguson. Instead, they will see another Scotsman, younger, almost as fiery, but most importantly, unproven.
Everyone knew that David Moyes was going to be the next United manager when Sir Alex retired, but it is no secret that at least half of the club’s massive fan-basewould have preferred someone like Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola. The Scotsman did a very decent job with Everton, but he has never won a major title. And Moyes has been thrown straight in to the deep end with three of his first five games as United manager coming against Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City.
And if the Scot’s appointment was underwhelming, then events that followed were disappointing. Off the field, two very public pursuits of Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas came to nothing, while a change of manager did nothing to temper down Wayne Rooney’s desire to leave, following his falling-out with Fergie at the end of last season. United’s pre-season form was disappointing with only two wins in seven friendlies.
An analysis of United’s squad reveals a weakness that has been there since Roy Keane left eightyears ago - central midfield. Michael Carrick looked imperious last season, but none of his midfield partners were able to consistently support the England international. Kagawa, in particular, showed glimpses of the talent that made him the standout player in a Bundesliga-winning Dortmund squad but the fact remains that United need to beef up their midfield.
The attack looks secure despite the speculation surrounding Rooney. Van Persie picked up from where he had left off last season against Wigan in the Community Shield, while Javier Hernandez has now scored as much for Mexico as Messi has for Argentina. Even Danny Welbeck looked to have rediscovered his goalscoring touch in pre-season and for England.
The only question marks over the defence remain the fitness issues of Vidic and Ferdinand.
Their lack of transfer activity and the loss of Sir Alex has seen Man United written off by many a punter. But it is impossible to forget that they are defending champions, who were basically jogging to the finish line in the final stages of the title race last season. Will the red fort hold this season against their rivals’ upgraded firepower?