Opposition view: Manchester United

By Ric Turner, Thu 19 September 2013 15:43

Opposition view: Manchester UnitedUnited fan Mo Naeem gives us the lowdown on the opposition ahead of Sunday's game

What are your expectations for this season?

Contrary to what the general consensus seems to be, I think United are favourites for the league. Got the best options defensively in Vidic, Ferdinand, Jones, Evans and Smalling; every one of them is arguably a first team player/starter. With the addition of Fellaini we now look infinitely stronger in CM with Carrick, Cleverley, Anderson and potentially Fletcher. The AM consists of Kagawa, Nani, Valencia, Young, Zaha and Januzaj; a superb combination of pace, flair and creativity. And up top, we've got the most potent forward line in the league without question in RVP, Rooney, Welbeck and Hernandez. This is genuinely the strongest squad of players we've probably ever had. There's the potential for a good crack at the CL too, but on paper we're still probably one match winner short squad wise compared to Bayern, Barca and Madrid; that elusive central midfield playmaker perhaps.

Are you happy with the manager?

Mates and I discussed at length that last season was probably going to be Fergies final one, if he won the league. I think most wanted Guardiola followed closely by Mourinho then Moyes and Klopp. The latter had ruled himself out leaving Dortmund back in Feb. Guardiola was ruled out officially even earlier after agreeing to take over at Bayern in Jan. It was a small pool in the end with Mourinho or Moyes. I think everyman and his dog knew Mourinho to Chelsea was always going to happen if Abrahamovic wanted him and it had become pretty much an open secret by the end. I think it's fair to say Moyes was the least hipster choice. Am I happy? Yeah I am. It would've been a huge job for whoever took over anyway, with the immense pressure of being the first in line after Fergie.

What Moyes has got going for him though is that he's determined and hungry. At Everton he's proved he can get the best out of his players. By all accounts he's driven and an obsessive student of the game. Most importantly Fergie chose him, which gives him a degree of strength with the fans, in the dressing room and the corridors of power. He's a company man and someone who'll respect the 'traditions'. I'm sure he's under no illusions though that he's got everything to prove: 1. Can he win a trophy quickly 2. Can he have an impact in Europe 3. Will he be able to handle the press. 4. Does he have sufficient player pulling power 5. Can he keep the squad happy/handle big players. The club and press seem to be spinning the 'victory for Moyes' narrative regarding Rooney so we can probably give him that one. I personally think pulling power wont be a problem because the club will always be more attractive than the manager. Bottom line is simple though… he has to win and then everything else will be moot. He's got the squad. No excuses. If he does then there's every chance we could be looking at Fergie Mk II.

Who are your key players?

It's difficult to look past the front two of RVP and Rooney. There's practically 60+ goals guaranteed between them, something that I don't think any of the other teams have in the league.

Were you happy with the business conducted during the transfer window?

Not so much happy but content that we finally bought a CM. The squad didn't need surgery. The sole addition of Fellaini has ticked pretty much every box - bar one - in terms of the attributes we were missing in that central area. It's no secret we needed a bit more presence/power ever since the loss of Hargreaves and Fletcher. He is much more than just brute strength though; he's intelligent, has a good football brain, two good feet, a very good touch, and is a goal threat. On top of that he's a big game player; something we can both testify too after his scoring exploits against both of us in recent seasons.

It's evident that another more creative CM is needed and is being targeted. Herrera definitely fits that bill and it was this particular 'failed bid' that seemed to be the proverbial straw that broke the fan's backs in regards to the transfer window. We all expected Fellaini, it was Herrera that ultimately left the taste that it was a complete disaster. The idea of player's values is a subjective one. Should United have paid the buyout/whatever the total cost of the deal is inc taxes etc may have been? Maybe.

We still need a LB due to Evra's age and sheer output in the terms of appearances. Fabio's injury record isn't great and he still lacks experience and Buttner was a 'warm body' signing last summer purely for cover and to allow Fabio to go out on loan. So we're still those 2 players/positions short of a complete squad in my opinion.

I think a lot of the unhappiness was the 'way' United went about their business and their strategy, if they actually had one. I'm starting to think the only way to make sense of it and the public Fabregas bids in particular was to view it from a 'mutually beneficial' angle; from Uniteds point of view it helped to counter the Rooney situation. A passive aggressive move you could say. They lost a tiny bit of face, but it helped support the 'we're after the best players in the world' line whilst reminding the Rooney camp that they weren't going to have it all their own way in the press. The deal always seemed unfeasible from the off, and doubly so after Thiago's move to Bayern. Fabregas got the arm round the shoulder he wanted from Barca. Everyone won.

Likewise United 'cheekily' bringing David Luiz and Mata into the narrative - following Chelsea's bid - knowing full well Barca were interested in the former and that there were question marks over Mourinho not fancying Mata ever since his appointment - was again a case of United fighting fire with fire.

Realistically as we only feed off press scraps - 95% of which is just hacks themselves just pissing in the wind and agents leaking bullshit to ramp up interest in their players - it's a bit unrealistic to form definitive judgments on what unfolded. The easy line is Moyes and Woodward were out of their depth, when the truth is probably what it's always been i.e. United like 'value for money' and the transfer market is more difficult with that approach especially with it seemingly becoming more expensive and political than ever.

Lest not forget the Edwards/Kenyon/Gill and Fergie axis' got led up many a path and missed out on plenty of players; see Gascoigne, Shearer, Ronaldinho, Robben, Ballack, Benzema, Hazard and Moura. I'm sure there's many more. It's important to keep things in perspective. Like Fergie said, the mind plays tricks on you and it's easy to become nostalgic about the past. The fact that there was a minority outpouring for how this would never have happened on the watch of the late great David Gill was quite embarrassing.

Are there any rising stars in the squad that we might not have heard of?

Adnan Januzaj is the one that's got everyone really excited. I read recently Mourinho saying there was no one like Ozil when asked, but I genuinely think this kid is more similar to him than anyone else I've seen; his touch, technique, awareness and more importantly his temperament. He's a really exciting prospect for an 18 year old and I think he could seriously pick himself in 12 months time. I may be being a bit giddy but he looks special, there's no doubt in my mind.

There's also James Wilson who you may not have heard of. He's forward that's been breaking records for the Under 18's. He smashed 5 past Newcastle's kids and scored on his debut for the England Under 19's.

Your Achilles heel?

We've lost Fergie's aura. Other than that, I'd say the fans. The reaction to defeats and performances could undermine the team and the whole atmosphere around the club. The hack pack have been sharpening their knives ever since Fergie announced his retirement.

If you could have any City player in your team who would you choose?

Toure. He's is your best and most important player by a mile. Him and Kompany are indispensable. Even with your summer signings, I'm still not sure your team could cope without them.

What is your perception of City as a club?

Purely footballing, I think the new manager comes with a lot of kudos from people and players (inc RVN) within the game. He has managed at the very top with Madrid and is experienced in Europe. Your signings have definitely given you a bit more balance, but I'm still not sure you're that much stronger than last season or as much as the press and some of my City mates seem to think.

Your first choice back 4 is the strongest in the league along with United's, but as we've seen in the games against Hull and Stoke, you just don't look the same team when you're missing Kompany. You're CM is strong especially with the addition of Fernandinho and it could perhaps be a breakthrough season for Rodwell. The big question for you is how well Jovetic does and whether he can replace the match winning quality and threat that Tevez and Balotelli provided. Can Navas give you another dimension of creativity and provide the assists and goals you lacked from wide areas? Did you let Barry go a season too early? Is Demichelis a better option than Kolo Toure; I'm not sure, time will tell.

I was more wary of Mancini's team in a way but it's very early doors. The big plus is that it looks like Pellegrini will get the best out of Dzeko who I think is very underrated and who we're yet to see the best of. A return to form/consistency for Silva and Aguero and you'll have a big chance. You've still got Nasri to find his Arsenal feet again too. I was secretly delighted you missed out on Isco as he would've been a definite game changer and coup in terms of quality along the lines of Toure, Silva and Aguero. As I've said though, it feels a more balanced squad, more so than Chelsea but still a little behind ours in my opinion.

Likely starting XI for the game, and score prediction?

De Gea
Jones Ferdinand Vidic Evra
Fellaini Carrick
Valencia Rooney Kagawa

In regards to the game itself, personally, with Tevez gone it has definitely removed a big fu*king thorn in my side. I'm more relaxed and a lot less anxious that's for sure. I think similar to our game v Chelsea and the fact that both teams have lost a game already, neither will want to lose again this early in the season and that could be reflective.

A win for either of us though will give the players the much coveted 'belief and confidence' that managers talk about. More than the three points these victories always shape and define the season mentally.