Before this season, no write up on our midfield could be given without focussing heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo. With him gone, it’s up to the rest of our midfield players to prove a point.
Park Ji-Sung – Is our unsung hero who has put in the performances on the big occasions for a few years now. He still has his critics but he’s more or less won our fans over. He’s not world class and I doubt he ever will be but he’s a worker and those type of players shouldn’t be underestimated. He will play when called upon but won’t complain when he’s on the bench. We didn’t hear a peep out of him when Ferguson didn’t even put him in the squad for the 2008 Champions League final. Fortunately for him, the occasions where he is dropped should be few and far between, with Park likely owning one of our starting places next season.
For him to keep that place, fighting off Nani and Valencia, Park needs to improve his finishing. More and more he gets himself in to good shooting positions but too often he doesn’t strike the ball cleanly enough. All our players are going to have to chip in to scoring more goals next season and Park needs to keep that in mind if he wants to stay in the starting team.
Antonio Valencia – Has rightly tried to distance himself from the Ronaldo comparisons from the moment he signed. What we’re buying here is not a 25 goals+ winger (how many of them are there in the world? Just the one…) but a talented young winger who will create a lot of goals for our strikers. He is exciting to watch and has no fear when running at his opponents. Already in the pre-season we’ve seen him take on two or three defenders and not bat an eye-lid. It’s great to see. He’ll score a few as well because he likes getting a shot away but it’s the assists we’ve bought him for. With Wayne Rooney playing a more central role, I expect him to get on the end of plenty of Valencia balls in.
Nani – A player most of us are desperate to see do well this season, following a poor second season at the club. During his first year he scored against Liverpool and Arsenal, as well as scoring a Champions League final penalty. But in his second year he fell out of favour with the manager and rarely got a game. When he did play he would usually be naff and then wouldn’t play again for another three weeks. Ferguson had to do what was best for the team but in not giving Nani time to prove himself, he certainly didn’t do much for the player.
Nani will now feel as though he has a point to prove in light of Ronaldo’s exit and should be given the opportunity to do just that. He has shown flashes of absolute brilliance in our shirt but they need to become a regular occurrence if he’s stick around.
Zoran Tosic – The jury is still out on this one for me. He showed some signs of promise in the pre-season but he is just so small. Ronaldo used to be a skinny little thing too and he managed to beef up, so hopefully Tosic will be able to manage the same. He gets pushed off the ball far too easily which is a massive problem. He’s very fast and he’s got a nice shot on him, but I doubt he will be getting too much match time this season until he’s been down the gym a bit more!
Michael Carrick – Is a player I like a lot. He’s dealt with the pressure and expectation his price-tag meant he was on the receiving end of and just got on with the job. He isn’t interested in the celebrity or the plaudits, he just wants to get the job done. One of our greatest moments of the season was his goal against Wigan with just two games left to play, after we’d gone a goal down within the first half hour. What a moment to step up a produce a moment of this quality.
It’s his defence-splitting passes that we will be relying on more than anything though. He has great vision and with Scholesy not getting any younger, it is Carrick’s creativity we will be turning to.
Darren Fletcher – Has gone from strength to strength over the past few years and we will be looking for him to step it up again next season. One of our hardest working players who just never seems to give up. Like Park, he’s not the most gifted player, but will win us games through his aggression and determination. He hounds his opponents and puts them under pressure from the first to the final whistle.
With Hargreaves’ future still hanging in the balance, Fletcher really has the opportunity to cement his place in our starting team. He has just the right attitude and I really hope we see more great things from him this season.
Anderson – Was the biggest disappointment from our players for me last year. He completely went off the boil. He looked like the dogs bollocks in his season and when he came up against the likes of Fabregas and Gerrard, he totally bossed the midfield. He pushed forward, he played great passes about the park, and had loads of energy. Last season though was a completely different story.
I’m hoping his freekick against Boca Juniors is a sign of things to come though and he can get his name on the scoresheet more often. That’s not the be all and end all of me though. I want him to keep possession and I want him to improve his passing. The goals will come, hopefully, but he needs to get the basics right again first.
Ryan Giggs – Surprised everyone in his PFA Player of the Year contribution to our season, making the central midfield role his own after lacking pace meant he could not longer cut it on the wing. Whilst still far too complacent on occasion for my liking, Giggsy put in some great performances for us, most noteably in our 3-0 victory against Chelsea, and it’s good to have a mature head in our squad.
You have to start thinking it can’t go on forever though and this will be his 20th season wearing our shirt. They’ll be lots of reds who can’t remember a United team which doesn’t include him in it and we really are approaching an end of a era with him. But if we give him one game on, two games off, then we should keep getting the best out of him and hopefully get another season on top of this one.
Paul Scholes – Is one of the most gifted players the club has ever had and despite now being past his best, he can still spray 40 and 50 yard balls across the park which land perfectly at the feet of a sprinting winger. He doesn’t keep possession as well as he used to and his tackling is as bad as ever, but he’s still a good player to have around. He is likely going to be coming off the bench more than he will be starting but that is why we have the strongest squad in the Premiership. Whilst Liverpool are bringing on the likes of Lucas Leiva, we’ll be bringing on Paul Scholes!
Owen Hargreaves – Is a player I’m desperate to see make a full-recovery. Since his impressive début performance against City, I’ve been a big fan of his and I think he could make the world of difference to our team. He is commanding and strong and versatile. Whilst of course the money issue is a concern, with Hargreaves going down as a flop (despite his European Cup winners medal!) if he doesn’t come back, I’m more bothered what it means for our squad. Fletcher is the only similar player to Hargreaves we have and it would be good to have a player like him ready to play, particularly on the big European Cup nights. Watch this space where Hargreaves is concerned, I suppose.
Darron Gibson – Didn’t impress me much to begin with but he is certainly growing on me. He’s obviously got a great shot on him and at just 21-years-old has a strong build. More often than not, he’s impressed during the pre-season, although he didn’t have his best game against Bayern Munich.
I’m sure we’ll be seeing quite a bit from him next season, not just the Cup games, although he still has a few years to prove himself.
1st choice: Park – Carrick – Fletcher – Valencia