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Rob Smyth’s Manchester United Season Preview

Nobody turns failure into fuel like Sir Alex Ferguson. His response to a trophyless season is usually pretty uncomplicated: he just goes round collecting trophies like a giddy old broad in a supermarket sweep. Since his breakthrough in 1990, Ferguson has only failed to win something in five out of 22 seasons. His immediate response to those includes a Double in 1995-96, a Treble in 1998-99 and a famous title win in 2002-03, when United harassed Arsenal’s aesthetes into a meltdown. After from the lost years between 2003 and 2006, when Ferguson took his medicine and held his nerve while waiting for Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney to mature, he has never failed to win the Premier League in two consecutive seasons. He has got that look in his eye. And when Fergie turns on his Manson lamps, the world better watch out.

There’s a downside to this pathological need for victory, in that it has prompted an unashamed betrayal of the attacking traditions established by Sir Matt Busby and maintained by Ferguson so long. The cowardly tactics at Manchester City in May were disgraceful. Manchester United used to be a club where the means justified the ends rather than the other way round. But those who care only about results would want nobody else except maybe Jose Mourinho in charge of their team.

There are still a million questions about the team itself, despite the excellent signing of Shinji Kagawa. The return of Nemanja Vidic – those who play Fergiebingo will note that “it’s just like a new signing” – should lend some stability to the defence, though not even he can do it all himself. Jonny Evans, though largely excellent last season, is not completely trustworthy. Rio Ferdinand is a Twitter personality who occasionally plays some football. There has been no regular right-back since Wes Brown in 2007-08. And Patrice Evra is either knackered – surely no outfield player has played more minutes in the Premier League in the last five years – or past it and fit for the knacker’s yard.

The centre of midfield remains the biggest concern; Ferguson’s reluctance to address this, inexplicable at first, now verges on the wilfully perverse. The proposed signing of Lucas Moura would have been akin to spunking every last penny on a plasma screen when you have no bread or milk.

There is no real need for another attacker. Kagawa can either play behind Rooney or from the left, ahead of thespian shithouse Ashley Young, with Rooney then behind Danny Welbeck. United scored 89 goals in 38 games last season, their second highest in the league since the 1960s, although for the most part they seemed to prioritise efficiency over excitement. In that, Rooney certainly represents the team: in the last three years he has lost plenty of his flair but become more productive than ever. The effervescence of Kagawa, who is equally capable of directness and subtlety, should put some of the fun back in Rooney and United’s game. He should certainly add speed to an attack that, at times last season, was alarmingly ponderous.

There are two ways of looking at United’s performance last season: that they almost won the title despite barely getting out of second gear, so imagine how good they’ll be when they start playing, or that a limited, fading side missed their big chance to delay Manchester City’s inexorable march towards English and perhaps world domination.

United will eventually fade away unless the Glazers bugger off, but it will be an extremely slow process while Ferguson is still there. They are probably the only team who can challenge City for the title this season. Much may depend on the extent to which City are sidetracked by Europe. Ferguson is much more adept at managing a campaign on two or three fronts than Roberto Mancini. Eleven men take the field, but, more so than ever, Ferguson is United’s most important player this season.

This article is taken from Surreal Football‘s ebook available for just £3. Visit Surreal Football or e-mail to purchase. Rob Smyth writes for The Guardian.



  1. Fred says:

    LOL brisbanefan even. Sorry mate.

  2. samuel - united WE stand says:

    while at it, why not buy harry kewell As wel. Fantasy football is at its full swing. Buy them all i say!

  3. United Till I Die says:

    @napstar – Well said and Spot on! Look how many players come from obscurity and do big things like Hernandez in his first season. Some were caught mid-sentance slagging him off till they realised he was leading us to the Title. Meanwhile anybody who foresaw big things would’ve been described as a fanboy thats the funniest part. Rose tinted glasses my arse, faith in this squad is nothing short of 20/20 vision when you look at what we achieved last season. Like you said, criticism and what not is fair enough but theres no need to look for inadequacies at every single possible opportunity. Just support the Club first and foremost ffs!

    @RoM – According to some Hernandez has gone from 30m Madrid material to a born offside (again) Mexican. Meanwhile, Welbeck had no future according to some but now he’s our second choice striker. Ha, I’d happily bet If Danny has an off season this year loads of “supporters” will suddenly want him gone again. One season doesn’t make or break a player imo, at least not in the managers eyes and since none of us are on the ground at OT surely his opinion has to count for something?

    As for Hernandez, lets be reasonable… How many times was he expected to chase down a long ball in his debut season? The only time United EVER play constant long ball these days is when he’s on the pitch, but when he first signed his goals weren’t coming from hopeful long balls he was getting on the end of crosses from the by-line and mixing it up with Rooney thanks to better delivery. His critics should give him a break considering our tactics and his role changed last season for whatever reason.

    Don’t be surprised to see him return to dangerous form thanks to our new look options in midfield. Like Young, Chica as he is so fondly called hasn’t turned shit over night so don’t write him off. EVen last season, he’s rarely offside when the ball is played a few feet on the ground and the Squad now looks set up to play that way imo. I’d never say no to a new transfer but if I had to choose between signing RVP or simply providing Hernandez with better delivery I know which option makes most sense sentimentally AND economically, but what do I know. Both would be nice (for the right price) but leave it to the manager till the window closes.

  4. samuel - united WE stand says:

    The critics may give him a break but there’s no denying the fact hernandez needs to step his game up. Always said it and will continue to do so, at the highest level and as a striker, you can’t succeed for a long time by always relying on your fellow team mates. Goals are important but you can’t always be score. if you link up play however and offer various all round skill (passing, better first touch, assists e.t.c) that will benefit the team then you will nail down a position. Hernandez is well known for sublime movements and poaching but that won’t be enough for him to avoid the warmth of the bench.

    Let’s be honest, his touch needs improving, he needs combine well with the midfielders and he needs be self reliant sometimes. He seems erratic at the moment and the goals aren’t flowing as his first season but with his attitude and dedication to learning, he’ll come good. He needs to improve.

    Lately, he’s had tendencies to drift off-side and can understand frustrations. He’s got bags of pace and energy, he could easily out-sprint defenders and doesn’t need to be so far ahead. The goals aren’t flowing to cover his weaknesses so he needs to improve. He’s a quality player but he can’t afford to stand still and think he’s made it, someone else will take his place.

    Question is, does hernandez want to be an impact player or a regular? what is he happy to be?. His current style is great for coming off the bench but it won’t work long term as a regular.

  5. United Till I Die says:

    @Samuel – I agree mate, he does have to improve on last season. He was knackered after his debut and then playing for Mexico, so I perhaps the long ball was deployed last season as a way to play to his obvious strengths and get his form back? Didn’t quite work out, and maybe our predicability didn’t help, but 10 goals in 18 EPL games ain’t exactly bad tbf.

    Thats not making excuses, im just making the point chasing long balls hasn’t worked out compared to the superior delivery he enjoyed in his first season. Plus I think he was knackered as I said last pre-season. Looking forward im expecting him to receive more through balls and enjoy better link up play with Rooney, who lets face it also had shocking moments of poor touch last season himself.

    Back when Hernandez was scoring for fun it was often Rooney who controlled the ball first and passed it on. I get your point about not just relying on delivery but creating as well, but Hernandez provided quite a few assists for Rooney as well, and dragged his fair share of defenders out of the way with his tireless movement.

    He’ll improve this year – he’s been rested when he could’ve gone to the Olympics and we’ve added the perfect player in Kagawa. Rooney will no doubt return to his menacing best, and regular service will be resumed imo.

  6. FRO-NAM says:

    Nice one regarding the ROM fantasy league lads just joined there myself :)

    Do think now we have Kagawa and that spark in the last third that we will again see the best of Hernandez! And Rooney seems according to the media very happy to have him on the team! My god the footie can’t come quick enough!!!!

    Think we may be done transfer wise, hope Evra can rediscover his best form! Love that guy he is a general

    Right fuck this for game of darts got conference call early tomorrow morning with uk head office presenting our financial projections for next 8 years! Not looking forward to that! eeek

  7. Zibbie says:

    Much to read Hello RoM.

  8. FRO-NAM says:

    Last giggle

    Me: Just had sex with two blonde twins at the weekend

    Mate: that’s class was it not difficult telling them apart

    Me: no not at all ………. mandi was the one with the belly ring and her hair in braids and terry was the one with the moustache and cock!

    Nite all

  9. fergie is the boss says:

    brisbanefan – the boss thinks carrick cleverly powell can be the creative spark in most games, and for some reason he is banking on fletchers return, then there is scholes and giggs. I agree we need a midfielder, but we need a CB and a full back, so we are still 3 players short of a great squad again

  10. fergie is the boss says:

    But I completely disagree, the team wont be much better than last year. DDG is much better than last year, we have the established lindergaard, vidic is back, evans has proven his worth, jones and smallen are a year older, in midfield if we can keep players of carrick anderson and esp our key midfielder cleverly fit, adding he potential of powel and a goalscoring midfielder in kagwa, fletcher maybe back, scholes is available for a whole seasons, upfront, if RVP is signed, we will get 2 strikers who can score 30 goals each, welbeck is more established. So no the squad will be better. Heck even BEBE looks like a decent player. Only giggs will be a negative because of age

    DDG, vidic evans carrick scholes cleverly anderson maybe fletcher is back powell kagwa rooney welbeck RVP these are signings and players improving the squad.

  11. Zibbie says:

    Good to see State side, yes many attacks on SAF , beyond me.

    Ash priceless, GvE, GO GANDHI!

    lawman10 predicts a new red, he is 50/50

    So the Sheikhs say 1.5 bill not enough, ok PSG, just go get MUFC targets save on scouting and fuck the Glazzers.

  12. utd_fc says:

    Quick question here.

    Heard some rumours about the spuds looking to sign m’villa for around 15 mill euros. That’s barely anything compared to what we’re trying to pay for either moura/persie. It’s also something our squad needs. a regularplayer in his national side, with good experience against top opposition and who is still relatively young.

    Don’t understand our transfer targets this season especially when attack is not what we need to worry about

  13. Zibbie says:

    Well with The addition of Kagawa, has added the dynamism SAF wants. Clevs not young Tom any longer, looking good for the Nat team. Say what you will of Anderson, he is a man with a point to prove, just maybe all SAF faith in him will pay of, as it has with so many. Vida gone for 4/5th of the season, I see the team being way better in most all areas?!! Hate on him if you must Rooney 26 hitting his prime! Danny to be signed soon! Nani 25 now! Sure as an arm chair gaffer I know just what MUFC need, and it is a, player of strong mind, the guy is who ever SAF does or does not sign, I feel this to my bones. Bring on the world for they play for MUFC!

  14. Clint-Iamyourpapii says:

    Im pretty sure this rumour was started by lads down at Redcafe :lol:

    “to break into indian markets” :P

  15. Clint-Iamyourpapii says:

    There is an obsession with fans for Fergie to create the “perfect squad”.
    Those fans define “perfect” by numbers and not by versatility or quality. & They often refer to the squad of 2008 as Perfect.

    Its not just today but we hear about it year after year. 3 Goalies, 9 defenders, 11 Midfielders , 4 strikers approximately. Not even the best team in the world can strike a perfect balance. Barca have 5 subs of quality then the rest from the youth system, City have no defence and no alternatives to Hart,Kompany,Yaya etc. Yes they have numbers but the step in replacement we have for our key men.
    Real have 15/16 players.

    The emphasis on a perfect squad is impossible to maintain as a manager. You’ll be lucky to keep the same 25 through two transfer window and keeping them all happy.

    In 2007/08 (Perfect year) we had;

    VDS, PIG,Foster
    Nev,Brown,Rio,Vida, Pique, Silvestre, Evra, O’Shea, Simpson
    Ronaldo Nani Giggs Scholes Fletcher Hargreaves Anderson Park Carrick
    Rooney Tevez Saha Dong

    That doesn’t look perfect to me ! We are stronger now….I’d say Ronaldo and Tevez create an illusion of a great squad but it’s no better than squads of present & further in the past.

    Now it’s;

    De Gea, Lindegaard, Johnstone
    Rafael, Jones,Smalling Rio,Vidic,Evans,Evra, Wootton,Keane
    Rooney,Chicha,Welbeck, Berbatov, Macheda Bebe

    Make your own conclusions but I just think you need 20 or so great players, keep them all fit and happy and that makes a great squad.

  16. Ash says:


    You do have a point. But I feel 07-08 squad had more match winners in them. Apart from Ronnie we also had a fit Hargreaves who was doing a great Job. But If you take out injuries we may have equally good season like we had during those time. There are two guys who I feel can make a huge difference to our campaign 1) Tom Cleverley 2) Kagawa. There are other players who will make difference but these two will play a very important role. If these two have an outstanding season then don’t be surprised if we win many trophies including the Europe. I have closely watched kagawa during the pre season and I have to say we have signed a gem. He creates so many opportunities. Even against Barca he was so fast and created some opportunities. Add Tom to that then we can expect something real great. The third player who can make difference is Vidic. He needs to be fit. As much as I love rio but I have to say Vidic is better and more important to the squad.

    Lets Hope we have Injury free season. I have full faith in this squad and they can win the league.

  17. Zibbie says:

    Papii sound about right. Good break down.
    Competition at all spots, then fringe players.
    Hargo and Fletch at the “un” same spot, go figure.
    Good blend of Icons, Giggs & Scholes, vets, Rio, Vida, Evra , Carric, Prime time players, Rooney, TV7, Young, Lindy 26, comers, Evans 25, Clevs, 24, Lil Pea 24, Nani 25, Kagawa 23 Andro 24
    The lads Welbeck 21, Powell 19, Jones 20, Smalling 21, Rafa 22 Tuuni 19, Keane 20, will his down brother as well, Wooten 20, Pettruci, Lindgard, Cole

  18. Zibbie says:

    Ash spot on 3 big big big players.
    I liked Kagawa last year, and now in the Red kit wow. Clevs looks real good. And the Capo!

    Loved the Good VS Evil thing. GO GANDHI

  19. Zibbie says:





  20. Ash says:

    Have you guys seen the Link up play between Kagawa and nani. I loved it. Those two gel very well with each other. Nani creates opportunities for kagawa and kagawa creates opportunities for Nani. People criticize Nani but I feel he is very vital for our success. Add Tom Cleverley to that you can get a wonder football. Mark my words you will see a great combo between Nani-Cleverley-Kagawa this season.
    As far as Rooney goes he hasn’t been able to link up that well with Kagawa but its only matter of time before he does that and when he does that you are going to see another monstrous season from rooney. I don’t know why but I am confident we will win the league.

    20 we are coming for you. :)

  21. Ash says:


    Glad you loved my Gandhi post :lol: . I felt I should also have some fun like you guys ;)

  22. Zibbie says:

    Me as well Ash roll on to 20.

    I’m out. When I wake I piss and see whats the MUFC new news!!

  23. denton davey says:

    Clint @ 21:20 – thanks for the biographical info on Granit Xhaka and Xerdan Shaqiri. I liked “the look” of Xhaka in the matches he played against UTD last year. Both would be great on “triple word scores” in Scrabble

  24. Corea says:

    @Clint-Iamyourpapii – swap Ando for Moutinho and we will still have “20 or so great players, keep them all fit and happy and that makes a great squad”. ;)

    I believe this is all clutching at straws. What we want to have and how the things should be fine with the players we have. But at the end of the day it could all come down to us basing on the players you’ve mentioned and hope of seeing the best of them.

  25. Corea says:

    So no RvP at the end of the night. :)

    I’ve been thinking. £20mln we pay for him, he gives us 3-4 seasons and we sell him to Shanghai Shenhua for £10-15mln. I am counting his wages which could rise to 200k but anyway.

    I’ve seen rumours Danny is close to signing 75k per week contract extention. Looks like another new signing.
    Just hope Berba stays and with no aditions we gonna have Rooney Wellbeck Chicha Berba and Macheda with Kagawa just behind so pretty fine with it.
    Although don’t have have no confidence in Macheda at all but just another option thatr could click one day.

  26. YorYor says:

    Balaji, as to Vidic looking gaunt, it might perhaps be a deliberate thing, and I believe he’ll be made to regain that slowly. It was after all his knee, and the less weight he needs to withstand, the faster they’ll heal, and growing weight slowly & naturally would be good to grow its strength back.

  27. william says:

    While reading the last paragraph of this article I choked back a stomach-full of bile. What utter shit.

  28. william says:

    & of course by that I mean the second to last.

  29. HecouldbeaCantona says:

    All the signs (or no signings) in what’s going in midfield this summer shows that Berbatov would be converted into a midfielder behind Kagawa. Wouldn’t it be mouth watering to see flicks and layoffs from these chaps, it also brings us back to those days of consistent scoring midfielders.

  30. james21 says:

    You have to have fun it passes the time mate.

    I agree about Macheda he needs to pull his socks up. We now he can finish and his few goals have been important. Can’t really see him having too many games tbh, maybe the league cup and FA Cup but that’ll depend on who we play. Lets hope for a season with few injuries for once.

    Roll on Monday night. Utd Utd Utd.

  31. CedarsDevil says:

    Morning you RED beauties

    Just 6 more days to kick off as far as we are concerned, cannot wait! UNITED UNITED

  32. Corea says:

    @james21 – i look at Macheda as one of our options “just in case”. He is still a talented member of the team so we might well give him another chance to prove he adds a value to us.
    And don’t forget we also have Bebe up our sleeve. :-D

  33. CedarsDevil says:

    On Macheda I honestly do not see the lad cutting it at United, I hope I am wrong. Will never forget that great winner against Villa.


    I agree with James, its great to have a laugh sometimes and I loved your post by the way….Something Willie and I have done a lot of in the past and recently even our poster Wayne had a go saying he’d been reading the blog for 25 years! haha

  34. CedarsDevil says:

    I do miss the days when all matches kicked off at 3 PM on a Saturday…..Yes yes I know its all to do with TV rights and all that bollocks, but I guess I am just old school….

    I do recall we played Blackburn away on a Friday night in the FA Cup many years ago……Felt so frigging weird……..Was all good though, we did win the match

  35. Corea says:

    At the end of the day we should all just be grateful to add Kagawasan to the team. We got lucky after so many failures Ozil-esque.
    He is something of Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes. Already isn’t modest to search the ball and be available. A pleasure to behold.

    @CedarsDevil – Macheda is in the team and we should count on him. But with poor judgement (Sampdoria loan) and injury picked up at QPR all proved to be pretty costly. Still a raw talent and much to be learned. Without minutes on the pitch though tough to get to another level. We’ll see.

  36. james21 says:

    I was in South lower and with the angle I thought he’d put it wide until the Stretty exploded, I think North stand even clapped a bit. :D
    I’m not a fan of him really but like you say he’s an option and he does still has time to develop.

  37. CedarsDevil says:


    As I said I hope I am wrong, a player like Rooney was good enough at 16 so age is no factor for me…Will always wish the lad good luck and I hope he eventually does make it but I cannot see it

    Jimmy James

    I will never forget how I celebrated that goal, I went bonkers……..Loved the dig at the North stand! ha ha

  38. Corea says:


    yeah, been furious with his decision making on Sampdoria loan. He hasn’t progressed that’s for sure so this season if given the chance should be pivotal for him and his chances for a glorious career.

  39. 911_DEVIL says:

    Good morning!!!!
    Van persie a smokescreen for lewandowski
    Plus fergie is in london with M’villa agent :P

    Pissed myself

  40. james21 says:

    Saw him at Peterborough last Friday he was shocking and looked totally disinterested. Having said that it was a run out for the reserves. Time will tell.

    Cedars. :D Just a bit of stand banter.

  41. FletchTHEMAN says:

    Danny Welbeck rumored to be nearing agreement on 5 year deal at United?! Daily Fail, but good news if true. Another heart attack diverted and a good move for the kid IMO.

    Get in Danny! Be great to getting back to the RVN days when we had 4+ really first choice forwards.

  42. Ash says:

    Cedars and James

    I was getting irritated by some people who just come here and say this blog is shit and say they won’t post. I have one thing to say to all those who think that way you can give your Opinions and thought about Manchester United rather than criticizing people. There are guys like me who will join in the debate in the topic of Manchester united. Just feel free to represent your Ideas instead of Moaning Like arsene wenger ;)
    There are posters who like to have fun which is also needed and there are also some posters who Just talk about our club. The one name that comes to my mind is of Denton Davey whose post I just Love. So there are people who will appreciate your post. By the way speaking of great posters where the hell has King eric gone.

  43. CedarsDevil says:


    Spot on mate, it bothers me when people just come on here to moan and complain….. Speaking of great posters my favourite when it comes to knowledge of our great club is by far Sir Giles..The man is old enough to have watched the Babes in action…..

    Then again you need a mix, you have folk like TonyBee who post jokes that makes me piss my self….It should always be a mixed bag, we cannot be serious all the time

  44. 911_DEVIL says:

    Yeah @fletch he will sign a new contract worth £75k a month
    According to the daily mail…

  45. 911_DEVIL says:

    Per week…

    My apology

  46. manc in aus says:

    Cedars, was at that game mate, Ewood park back in 85, we beat em 2-0 in the fa cup, think it was 3rd or 4th round, strachan scored a beautiful lob for the second, not sure who got the first, sure someone can help us put there, went on to win it, lucky enough to be at both semis , Goodison park & Maine road, bought a ticket outside Maine rd for a tenner & the final what a buzz, whitesides goal, right behind the net…fuckin top year that

  47. CedarsDevil says:

    manc in aus

    Fucking epic! And what a winner by big Norm it was furthermore the way Robbo raped shit in the replay against Liverpool was fucking great ………….Good days

  48. FRO-NAM says:


    Thanks for the heads up about the fantasy league but I am already in few of the leagues with friends/work on the barclays official site :) so was looking to stay on it. Thanks for the shout tho

    @Never beaten only run out of time
    Nice one mate on starting a ROM league on the barclays site, always good laugh keep the other games interesting.

    Just reminder to all who fancy a go the code is – 399453-253760

    Rite lads have we signed anyone yet?


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