Having pioneered the innovative No Central Midfielders formation, in response to Barcelona’s Seven Midfielders At Once, Manchester United are still at least the second best team in England.
At the end of last season
They were this close to winning the Premiership (I’m holding my thumb and finger very close together), despite having no clear best ‘keeper, one decent centre-back and no central midfielders, a response to… wait. I’ve done this “joke”. Look, I put it in quote marks. I’m self-deprecating. Basically, if it wasn’t for Joey Barton, they might well have won the league.
What’s happened since then
They’ve signed Shinji Kagawa, who definitely isn’t a direct replacement for Park Ji-Sung, you racist. They’ve finally got rid of Michael Owen, hopefully putting an end to his chokingly annoying Twitter cheerleading. They conspicuously haven’t bought a new “proper” central midfielder, and continue to hold back the inexorable rise of future Ballon d’Or winner Dimi Berbatov. Oh, and the Glazers have fucked everyone over, again.
Current Starting XI
Kagawa will likely start “in the hole” behind Rooney, although given that I’ve seen him play three times ever I’m about to be forced to admit that I’m pulling this out of my arse. United do actually possess a fair bit of squad depth (although perhaps not quite to Chelsea-esque levels in midfield), with admirable cover across the defence and Welbeck/Hernandez providing adequate forward options for when it becomes apparent that Rooney can’t do anything except score goals nowadays. Maybe another midfielder would be nice, or as seems more likely everyone will shut up and get on with letting Carrick and one other be just good enough.
Well, he is a bit of a prick, but of all the top managers (Pardew notwithstanding) Sir Alex is the only one who seems to know what he’s doing. Mancini can’t sign anyone, Wenger can’t persuade anyone to stay, Di Matteo will be gone by Christmas, Villas-Boas has one striker and Rodgers is severely handicapped by virtue of being in charge of Liverpool. 25 years later, still United’s biggest asset.
Where will they finish?
Not a chance of repeating the European debacle last year, or Ferguson will be dangling not a few players from the top of Old Trafford, and they’re still substantially better than everyone bar City and perhaps Chelsea. Close second again, at least Semi-finals of the Champions League.