The international break is still very much on, and while Roy Hodgson never leaves us short of laughs in the meantime by proving that an England cap is more freely available than a glass of drinking water, honestly we are quite bored. Yeah, despite the Englishmen celebrating the victory of a Scot in New York, which was a novel sight.
So after all the whip-cracking I’ve had to face in the past week (no, none of that ‘Bell Bajao’ stuff), here we go with an appraisal of the Manchester United defence & the goalkeeping situation, or sort of.
The Central Defence:
First up is the hard-nosed skipper Nemanja ‘he-comes-from-obviously-Serbia’ Vidic, who started the season with Michael Carrick alongside him at centre-back and will probably end the season with him too, given the rate at which our defenders have kept getting injured over the past 3 seasons or so. Nevertheless, his absence for the majority of last season surely hurt United as they did have their defensive problems against physical sides or technically superior opposition.
Now that he’s back and is looking good, all he needs is a proper defensive partner alongside him. And given any mishap does not befall him like last season, his presence will matter the most if United are to wrest back the title from City’s grasp.
Up next is the veteran Twitter celeb and when he gets time off it, injury-prone defender Rio Ferdinand. Easily the best centre back pairing in England with Vidic when fit, Ferdinand has lost pace with age but his positioning sense remains excellent. His rare ‘predatory’ instincts were on display at Southampton when he surged into the box unmarked and headed in a cross from the wings, which rebounded off the post to set up RvP’s equalizer.
Ferdinand will be the automatic choice to start when fit but the fact that he’s approaching 34 means it won’t be possible for him to play two games a week. Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad-rotating tactics will come in handy and if he doesn’t happen to break a finger or two on account of incessant tweeting (which is highly unlikely), @rioferdy5 might prove invaluable in terms of experience and squad strength.
Jonny Evans will be the next one we’ll look at, while both Ducky and Berbatron (change that name buddy, he’s gone!) head out till we’re done with him. Evans had a strong last season, starting most games as Vidic was out . Though he’s still susceptible to physical opposition, his positioning has improved a lot and so has his ability to intercept attacks. He will be expected to step up to the challenge once again in case Vidic or Ferdinand aren’t playing or are sidelined with injury. And given he’s still young at 24, he has time on his side to keep improving on his shortcomings.
The next pretender is Chris Smalling, who had an impressive debut 2010-11 season after moving from Fulham but was consigned to right-back for most of the time when he was playing, where he didn’t really disappoint apart from the 1-6 (where he wasn’t alone). Still out with injury, Smalling will be expected to get adequate game-time over the course of the season while also getting starts in the domestic cup competitions.
Considered to be one of the signings of last season before he faded in the final few months (while injury also played its part), Phil Jones will be one to watch out for this season too. Capable of playing in a number of defensive roles and having been likened to Italy legend Franco Baresi by former England coach Fabio Capello, Jones will have to battle hard to live up to the expectations after giving a glimpse of his immense potential. Like Smalling, he will have to play a waiting role as far as central defence is concerned but he might feature in more of a defensive midfield role this season.
Expect to see the likes of Scott Wootton and Michael Keane get some first team action in the Capital One Cup, depending upon the strength of the opposition.
Yes, he’s shit and I admit it. Not always though, but most of the time. You don’t need any more clues to guess we’re talking of Patrice ‘Big-mouth’ Evra now. However, a major upside to that is he’s miraculously fit and available all the time. Evra’s main problem for some time has been his inability to track back and do his primary job, which is defending. He’s still quite good while going forward but usually fails to do his best when up against wingers whose strengths are pace and trickery, which is pretty much everyone you can think of. This has been attributed to loss of pace apart from lack of focus and competition, which needs to be addressed quickly before Manchester United Plc. starts publishing his name on the Liabilities side of the balance sheet.
This is going to be Rafael Da Silva’s most important season yet. He has promised, he has delivered and fans are yet to be convinced that he is the man to succeed Gary Neville in the long run. He has everything that a good right-back possesses but lacks presence in the air, where he is often found wanting while defending set pieces. However he is still young, which means he’s still a work-in-progress and can steadily improve.
Everyone was surprised when Manchester United made a swoop for Dutch left-back Alexander Buttner (pronounced as ‘Bootner’) from Vitesse Arnheim. Though he’s a rather unknown quantity – his only claim to fame being a call-up to the preliminary Holland squad for the Euros – his presence will only enhance the depth of the squad, besides providing competition for Evra’s position in the absence of Fabio Da Silva (out on loan at QPR). Only time will tell whether he turns out to be another Bebe.
Academy youngsters such as Marnick Vermijl and Tyler Blackett did feature during pre-season but are unlikely to make first-team appearances this season.
The Goalkeeping Situation:
A mixed first season it was for David De Gea, yet there were many positives to be taken from it. His reflexes are top notch, his ability to make point blank saves consistently is perhaps rivaled by none in the Premier League but he is still suspect when it comes to free kicks and corners. He’s been dropped a couple of times by the gaffer whenever he’s made mistakes and he’s only returned stronger, which gives a reflection of his positive mindset. It’s only the beginning of the good things to come.
He might not be satisfied playing second fiddle at Old Trafford, but that’s what Anders Lindegaard might have to contend with this season too. He’s reliable in goal and his only major flaw seems to be his kicking, but he makes up for it with his presence within the box. Of course there will be appearances in the Champions League group stages as well as cup competitions – apart from the odd league game – but he alongwith De Gea do provide a more-than-satisfactory solution to the goalkeeping situation.
Yeah, cuss all you want. After all, I was just stating the obvious the whole time.