Manchester United travel to Goodison Park on Monday night to take on Everton in their opening Premier League fixture of the 2012/13 campaign. As the Reds bid to reclaim the title that was lost to Manchester City last time round, the signing of Robin van Persie has provided a timely boost.
The capture of the reigning PFA Player of the Year is the marquee signing that United supporters have been crying out for, and should give United an added impetus as they bid to get their season off to a good start. Sir Alex Ferguson finally got his man, and in time for the fine tuning at the end of a solid pre-season that included trips to South Africa and China.
Shinji Kagawa, United’s new acquisition from Borussia Dortmund, starred in the friendly fixtures he took part in, and ought to also make his competitive debut at Goodison. The pressure has been lifted from the Japanese midfielders’ shoulders following the arrival of van Persie, which could benefit the 23-year-old as he bids to establish himself in the first team.
It will be interesting to see how Sir Alex Ferguson lines up his attack, which was often deployed in a 4-4-2 formation last season. With the addition of van Persie to United’s attacking formation of Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, it is difficult to see any less than two strikers operating up top, unless the manager decides to drop either or both of Rooney and van Persie back behind one of the younger forwards.
Rooney in particular has been seen in a deeper position before, with Ferguson utilising the England international in midfield on a number of occasions in the last campaign. The vision, range of passing, and appreciation of space possessed by Rooney could see this happen more often this season, especially when United come up against the stronger teams in the league and in Europe, where Ferguson is prone to setting his side up with only one striker.
The problem with dropping Rooney back is that he will of course be less likely to find the net, but this could be more than made up for by a man who scored 37 goals in 48 games last season. With the likes of Rooney and Kagawa operating behind van Persie, in addition to the vision of Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, and Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ashley Young providing service from the wings, United should be a terrifying prospect going forward this season. Factoring in the promising youth of Hernandez, Welbeck and Tom Cleverley shows the selection headaches that Ferguson will undoubtedly suffer in the coming months.
There is an excitement surrounding United as they embark upon the new campaign, which has had a great deal to do with the capture of van Persie. With the attacking options that the Old Trafford club boast, supporters will be optimistic that a 20th league title is firmly in their sights.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Everton