Tipping the Red Devils for Premier League glory isn’t exactly controversial but it’s difficult to see past Sir Alex Ferguson’s side this season. Certainly at the moment anyway. There will be people out there who think that Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal let United off easily last season by mounting what can be described as a pretty pathetic attempt at a title challenge. And those people would be spot on. United claimed their record 19th league triumph with 80 points in May but this was definitely a season where the issue of relegation was far more intriguing than top the four, which was never for a moment in any doubt. These so-called challengers allowed Manchester United to win the league with 80 points – quite frankly, this is a gift. Arsenal will remember the 07/08 season, where 83 points was only good enough for Premiership Bronze, while the same was true for Chelsea the following year. 80 points to claim a record 19th title, and with all their absurd spending on the likes of Torres and Balotelli, Chelsea and Manchester City managed 71 points each.
While they claimed a record-breaking League championship, it’s difficult to see the Manchester United team that managed it going down in history like Sir Matt Busby’s European Champions of 1968 or the treble-winning side of 1999. 2010/11 was a poor season in terms of what the top teams offered. 72 points would have been enough for you to be crowned league champions, relegated Birmingham City won the League Cup and Stoke City (heaven help us) will be playing European football this season after finishing runners-up to Manchester City in the FA Cup final. The Premier League’s Europa League representatives offered very little as well. Aston Villa were dumped out in the qualifying round by Rapid Wien, while Liverpool and Manchester City failed to make it past the round of 16. In the Champions League, Tottenham were found out when they had to play a decent side in Real Madrid, while Arsenal and Premier League champions Manchester United were both taken apart and taught a lesson by Barcelona.
But United have completed some good business in the transfer window and look to have made more improvements to their squad than Chelsea, City and Arsenal. Sir Alex has brought in a promising young goalkeeper in David De Gea, who certainly has the potential to be Edwin Van der Sar’s long-term successor at Old Trafford, while they’ve also introduced two decent additions in Ashley Young and Phil Jones. Furthermore, United have completed the bulk of their transfer business early, allowing the new arrivals to settle in and enjoy a good pre-season with their new team mates. Meanwhile, the champions continue to be linked with some quality playmaking midfielders, such as Inter’s Wesley Sneijder and Diego of Wolfsburg; players who would make United’s midfield far more attractive.
United have assembled a squad which looks more than capable of retaining the Premier League title. Not much gets past Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, while there is adequate centre half cover in England U21 pair Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. In midfield, there is the Welsh Wizard Ryan Giggs, who could be surrounded by the likes of Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick or Ji Sung Park. All calm on the ball, willing to put tackles in and capable of opening teams up with defence splitting passes. And if United do sign Sneijder, he will give the midfield an even more exciting look and will certainly cushion the blow of Paul Scholes’ retirement. Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Luis Nani will run at opposition full backs all game and deliver plenty of crosses for the front men to latch on to. As far as the strikers are concerned, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez have shown they have the makings of forging an effective partnership. They are more than capable of notching 40+ goals a season between them, while the likes of Michael Owen, Federico Macheda and Dimitar Berbatov (if he remains at Old Trafford) will provide formidable cover for the Roon and Chicharito.
I demonstrated last season, with some aplomb, that my predictions rarely resemble anything approximating accurate. So, if this turns out to be the nail in Manchester United’s coffin, I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the Old Trafford faithful. United’s squad has quality, strength in depth and experience to storm their way to a 20th league title.