In preparation for the 2014-15 season, The Republik of Mancunia has spoken to fans of all the clubs in the Premier League about last season, next season, their own clubs and their thoughts on United.
Scott: How did you rate 2013-14 for Villa?
Damian: Actually worse than the one before because the one before we showed a little promise towards the end whereas in the one just gone, we were poor throughout. We sat back and hit long and hoped for something, rather than creating something. It was one of the worst seasons I remember.
Scott: Who was your best performing player?
Damian: Nobody really stood out, but Fabian Delph looked as good as we could get last season, but that was mostly for him tracking back and getting the tackle in. And there is nothing wrong with that type of player but when you start praising players for their ability to track back and get the tackle in, it sort of sums up what your team is all about. I’m hoping with the arrival of Roy Keane, we’re not going to be that focused on sitting back this season.
Scott: Which player are you expecting to be most important for you in 2014-15?
Damian: This is going to sound strange, but it’s Joe Cole, but it’s only Joe Cole if we change how we play and if Joe Cole plays in the middle (which is what we all sort of expect him to play). Basically, we’ve had nobody in the middle of the park to play the ball to for a while now and as it appears we have him and the hope is were not just going to sit back and hit long, if we play to the strengths of Joe Cole and he remains able to play week in week out, I think he could be the most important for us this season.
Scott: Are you happy with your manager?
Damian: Not really. But I also accept, when working on a limited budget, that things take time. He lost the two people he brought with him from Norwich towards the end of last season, to be replaced by Roy Keane in the summer, so I’m hoping that and a more willing desire to win games rather than go out to not lose, will be what we need. I hope Roy Keane brings that, it’s the impression I have of him as a player.
Basically, it’s set up for the manager to now show what he is capable of as a manager or leave (with Roy Keane replacing him).
Scott: I take it you’re happy with the appointment of Keano then?
Damian: I think every Aston Villa fan is. As a player, he was one of the best, that okay also had great players around him, but he epitomised what winning was all about and we’ve not had that at Villa for a while. I think he’s also going to want to see the football played the right way and not this sit back, hit long and hope stuff we’ve had for the most part under Lambert. And I think most importantly, the players will respect him and listen to him. And it’s not that they don’t have respect for Lambert, but it’s a different respect.
Scott: What do you think your club will achieve this season with Lambert and Keane leading the way?
Damian: If I were writing this on any day of the week after about 9pm, I’d confidently tell you that we could be finishing, if everything went right for us, in 8th place. But seeing as I’m writing this at closer to 11am and having just woken up from a late night, my head isn’t so confident. I think we’l finish 10th to 12th and I think there will be a lot of Aston Villa supporters happy with that and they’ll see it as progress. It isn’t progress, if you look at things as a big picture, but you could say it’s a step in the right direction.
As for silverware, anything is possible. We’ve come close under Lambert and it’s only one game and what do they say; you can beat anyone on the day.
Scott: Are you happy with your club’s performance in the transfer window this summer?
Damian: Actually, I am. the last two summer transfer windows, the manager has gone a bit mad and I’m convinced that too many changes isn’t always good. Look what happened to Spurs last season and watch what happens to Liverpool this one. We’ve made three signings (Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson) and each player we’ve brought in has a lot of Premier League experience and the core of what we’ve missed under Lambert is Premier League experience. Each player also has played at the top end of the table. They might not all play every game, but it’s what we’ve missed.
I actually hope we don’t bring in any more players, because if we do, we’re just replacing players the manager has previously brought in, which in essence will be confirming he got it wrong, but also making things a little harder for himself.
Scott: If you could have one United player, who would it be?
Damian: When we did this last season I said Ashley Young and I’m going to stick by that, because I think he would come back if we could pay his wages. I think he’d play every week for us and I think deep down, that’s what he wants to do. I also don’t think he’s good enough for Manchester United and that he needs to be the big fish in the small pond to get the best out of him.
Scott: There won’t be many United fans who wouldn’t offer to drive him to Villa Park if a bid came in! Can you believe United were as bad as they were last season?
Damian: In short yes and if you read my responses to these questions last year, you’ll see that I basically predicted you’d finish outside of the top four if you kept Moyes to the end of the season. Don’t get me wrong, it was only because of Moyes and that whoever followed Sir Alex was going to fail. It will be different this one.
Scott: How do you expect United to perform this season?
Damian: My heart says you’ll win the League this season but my head says something different and that all comes down to the formation Louis van Gaal picks and sticks with. Three central defenders is tough in this league because Premier League sides attack quickly and you can get caught out.
The thing is, you have the players to attack and play the right football with three central defenders and as long as he gets that right and I’m fairly confident he will, then you’re always going to score more than the opposition. But my head says going from 7th to winning is a tough ask (even though you went from winning it to 7th).
I think van Gaal has all the attributes to bring silverware to Manchester United but I’m not convinced it will come the first time of asking and there is every chance, when you’re playing the better sides, that the three central defenders will cause you more problems than you expected.
But to answer your question, I expect much better football from Manchester United this season and more desire to win and who knows, maybe the League Cup or FA Cup.
Scott: Who do you think will win the league?
Damian: I’m leaning towards Chelsea but my heart says Arsenal have a shot if all the speculation about Wenger spending more money is true. I just hope it’s not Manchester City, but I think I wrote that last time out