Premier League preview – Manchester United

Last season:

Premier League: 1st

FA Cup: Sixth Round

League Cup: Fourth Round

Champions League: Last 16

Manchester United are venturing into a new era of stewardship under David Moyes in what promises to be a compelling season at the top end of English football. The Old Trafford club are beginning a Premier League campaign without Sir Alex Ferguson for the very first time, and the eyes of the football world will be on the champions as they bid to continue their success.

The retired Ferguson has moved upstairs into the boardroom, which gives the Old Trafford club an opportunity to tap into his vast experience and work with a continuity that is usually absent when a new manager is installed. Rivals Manchester City and Chelsea have also both appointed new managers, despite the arrival at Stamford Bridge being the return of Jose Mourinho. The transition between regimes at these clubs will have struggled to be as smooth as that United have gone through, with Moyes able to freely pick the brains of British football’s most successful manager.

The system that was deployed in last weekend’s Community Shield victory is a perpetuation of the set up that was so effective for Ferguson over the last several years, seeing two wide men supporting a lone striker with three central midfielders. It seems likely that Moyes will stick to this formation, especially considering the players he has at his disposal. Wilfried Zaha has made an exciting start to his United career, while Robin van Persie is a lethal spearhead for the attack. Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck and Nani could be left to battle it out for the remaining wide spot.

This may depend on the transfer business that Moyes undertakes in the next couple of weeks, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale linked with a move to Old Trafford, and Wayne Rooney and Nani potentially on the way out. The signing of Ronaldo or Bale would represent a seismic blow to United’s rivals, and would complete an attacking trio that would have the potential to overshadow the axis of Rooney, Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez that was so effective in securing domestic and European success in 2008.

Rumours persist that Marouane Fellaini is on Moyes’ shopping list, which along with the masterful Michael Carrick would form a solid yet creative base from which the Reds could launch their offensive forays. Shinji Kagawa could thrive in front of these two players, and the Japanese will be looking to build on what was a stop-start yet promising debut campaign.

Whether Moyes makes any more signings could influence the playing time of the youngsters he has integrated into the first team squad throughout pre-season, including the highly promising Adnan Januzaj. United supporters will be optimistic that the policy of bringing players through the ranks continues, and in the 18-year-old Belgian they have a potential star to get excited about.

The fixture list has not been kind to the new United boss, throwing up trips to the Liberty Stadium, Anfield and the Etihad, in addition to a home clash against Chelsea in the first five games. It could see Moyes struggle to pick up early points, but also provides him the opportunity for a statement of intent.

Regardless of how the early part of the campaign pans out, the new season promises to be as intriguing as any in recent memory.

David Moyes is the man tasked with replacing Sir Alex Ferguson

Manager – David Moyes: Installed into one of the rarest jobs in football, the Scot must step out of Ferguson’s shadow and make his own imprint on Old Trafford. This could be achieved by a stellar signing to enhance a squad that boasts talent and depth, and a strong start in the face of difficult fixtures.

Key signing – Wilfried Zaha: Signed in January but only appearing in a red shirt for the first time this summer, the 20-year-old has been impressive in pre-season. Blessed with pace, quick feet and confidence, Zaha could bring a renewed verve to United’s wide play after last season’s poor showings from Valencia, Young and Nani.

Key sale – Sir Alex Ferguson: A loss rather than a sale, the end of Ferguson’s near 27 year reign is a monumental shift in the Premier League landscape. United’s rivals will hope that it creates weakness at Old Trafford, although the appointment of Moyes on a six year contract was a clear statement of continued future stability.

Keep an eye out for…Shinji Kagawa: The Japanese international made a good start at United following his arrival from Borussia Dortmund, but his early form was disrupted by injury. He is a gifted player and will want to improve this season, and could thrive in an advanced role behind van Persie, particularly if Rooney leaves the club.

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