By Imran Kardar
A new season is upon us! Football returns to England and the Premier League! The most electrifying and watched league in the world! Home of some of the biggest and most successful clubs in Europe and not many have been more successful than Manchester United. Old Trafford has been rather eventful in the last couple of seasons since the day the gaffer called it a day and not in a good way. A disastrous first season under the Chosen One led to United looking elsewhere and brining in Van Gaal, a man with a proven winning record. LVG’s first season was rather eventful as well, with a pretty good pre-season with a new formation of 3-4-1-2. But once the league started this formation was exposed due to various reasons that most are aware of so let’s move on to this season.
United’s second season under LVG is about to begin and well, though United have bought better this summer there are key areas of concern that have still remained unaddressed. Last season LVG made a huge error in not signing a top central defender and one year down the line the same mistake has been repeated. It was clear that LVG wanted to sign a word class central defender and that is why Mats Hummels and Sergio Ramos were targeted. Hummels chose to stay in Germany with Dortmund and that story ended before becoming a saga. Next on the list was Sergio Ramos; his story has dragged on and become a full-fledged summer transfer saga. Currently it seems like he will be staying at Real Madrid and used United just to get a better contract out of Real Madrid. I for one would have loved United to have signed Nicolas Otamendi. The guy is a bloody beast of a defender, in the same mold as Nemanja Vidic, with international experience as well. We have missed that kind of defender since Vida left, a leader in the defense who could sort out all the youngsters. But it seems that Valencia isn’t ready to sell under the release clause which United deem too expensive for Otamendi. If I were LVG I’d sign him whatever the price as United’s defense will improve by leaps and bounds.
Let’s move on to the first game of the season! Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspurs at Old Trafford on the 8th of August! The first game of the season! Last season United did well against Spurs, though the first tie at White Hart Lane was a 0-0 draw with United playing the dreaded 3-4-1-2 formation the second tie at Old Trafford was back to a 4-2-3-1 and produced much better results with a 3-0 win. This year it seems that LVG has ditched the idea of playing 3 at the back and will keep it to a back 4. The bad start to last season can be attributed to United playing 3 at the back. This resulted in something like 13 points in the first 11 games. The good run came when United started playing 4 at the back and I think LVG has ditched the idea of 3 at the back. United should be starting with a 4-2-3-1 formation, that was used in pre-season. My predicted lineup is: DDG, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Carrick, Schneiderlin, Mata, Depay, Young and Rooney.
The above lineup is pretty much the same that has started majority of the pre-season baring Jones who I don’t expect to start as he had a shocker against PSG and it’s very much possible that Smalling replaces him in the starting lineup.
Key players for United will be Carrick and Schneiderlin in the midfield. Finally United have some steel in the form of Morgan Schneiderlin. We have missed this since probably the days of Roy Keane. I kept a close eye on him in pre-season and the guy does his work quietly without any fuss and sometimes even goes unnoticed. This will free up Carrick to look for those killer passes to the attackers. Rooney, obviously, will need to have a big game and a good season if United are to win the title. I would prefer United to sign another experienced striker (the heart craves The Man Zlatan) to help Rooney and United to silverware. United look short upfront and should add to the strikers.
On to Spurs, it’s clear that this season Harry Kane would be expected to repeat and even surpass the goal tally he collected up last season, key player No.1. Let’s move on to key player No.2, the little Dane Eriksen. My word what a player he is! The guy has great passing range and vision. He will need to have a big season if Spurs are to challenge for the top four. Key player No.3, Hugo Lloris. My pick to replace DDG if he leaves for Real Madrid. The French stopper is a world class keeper and in my opinion too good to be playing in a team like Spurs.
This should be a great game to kick off the premier league and the season. I expect United to come out all guns blazing as it’s the season opener and it’s at Old Trafford. My prediction: 2-0 United win. Let the games begin!