Mark Ogden, Daily Telegraph Northern Football Correspondent, looks ahead to United’s 2012-2013 season.
Scott the Red: United never implode at the end of the season. What do you think happened?
Mark Ogden: United have had a few wobbles during the run-in in the past, so it wasn’t totally unusual that it happened last season. I also think that the eight-point lead was misread by players, fans and ourselves in the media alike. With the away game at City still to come, it was never really an eight-point lead in the sense that City had to hope for an almighty collapse by United. All they had to do was beat United and hope for another defeat and a draw, which is eventually what happened. But yes, it’s still unusual for that to happen to United, so they can have no excuses. They were abysmal at Wigan and totally naïve against Everton, when all they had to do was sit on a two-goal lead.
Why did it happen? God knows, but all it means is that we can get rid of a few old clichés in terms of United always getting stronger, United having the experience of the run-in and the been-there, done-it mentality. We can come up with some new ones this season.
STR: Is United’s current squad capable of putting it right and winning the league this season?
MO: Yes, especially now that Van Persie has arrived. Having lost the last title on goal difference, it would be ridiculous to suggest that they are no longer in contention for the league, especially when you consider that the gap between United and Arsenal in third was almost the length of the M1!
The return of Vidic is key, but I still wonder if the lack of a powerhouse midfielder, a la Yaya Toure or Roy Keane, will prove decisive in the end. It’s a question of whether Van Persie’s goals will negate the need for new legs in midfield.
STR: Ferguson confirming interest in Lucas Moura and Robin van Persie was weird, right?
MO: I know there are a few conspiracy theories around this one, that the public confirmation was linked to the IPO and projecting an image of an ambitious club chasing the best players. But it’s not as though Fergie hasn’t spoken in the past about players that he wants to bring in. He talked openly about wanting Owen Hargreaves, Carlos Tevez, Dimitar Berbatov and even Samir Nasri in the past, so I think it’s more a tactic to get things moving or maybe even prompt a player to drive the deal from his end. It obviously worked with Van Persie – eventually!
STR: Looking to one of our other new signings, do you fancy Kagawa to make a big impact?
MO: He looked useful during the tour of South Africa and China, but he wasn’t facing world-beaters, so he can’t be judged on that. To have done so well in Germany with Borussia Dortmund suggests that he has what it takes to do well at Old Trafford, but I know that United have been wary of signing players from the Bundesliga in the past, particularly attacking players. Their view is that the Bundesliga isn’t quite up to the level of the Premier League, Spain or Italy once you get beyond the top two or three, so you are taking a chance on a player thriving in a stronger league. To back that up, Edin Dzeko hasn’t exactly been a world-beater at Manchester City after scoring non-stop for Wolfsburg, but who knows?
STR: Finally, what’s your best Manchester XI?
MO: Hart; Smalling, Vidic, Kompany, Evra; Yaya Toure, Carrick, Silva; Valencia, Rooney, Aguero. Sub: Hargreaves..