We can stop pretending to love tennis and golf and some of those weird spors at the Commonwealth games (one such as Small Bore) because the football is back! After enduring 12 months of dreading the prospect of league fixtures because of what turned out to be a managerial disaster, it's great to have that feeling again of looking forward to the Saturday afternoon with an aura of expectancy. Long gone are the days we used to 'try' to make it difficult for our opponents. It's back to the days when the opposition how to figure out how to contend with Manchester United at Old Trafford. How to deal wth a 3-5-2 formation.
Admitedy, United have not strengthened in crucial areas of the team and have been dealt with a few injuries already, but it's a breath of fresh air that we shall head into the seaaon favourites to win all our games until a top 4 side comes round about mid October.
The defence is perhaps the most fragile in terms of bodies, let alone quality. Luke Shaw, Tony V, Rafael and Evans are all injured. It means the likes of James Reece and Tyler BLackett could be in for their Premier League debuts much earlier than expected. The failure to sign at least one centre half before the big kick off might yet prove to be a mistake, but if the youngsters can play to the rules of LVG, it is unlikely that experience will matter just yet. Besides, for all its demands, the Premier league is not the Champions League. In truth though, young Tyler Blackett has looked the best defender of the lot in the cameos that rdhe's had on tour. He also came out with his head held high after Tuesday's fixture against Valencia. Ultimately though, the defenders at the back need a cohesion to be able to deal with a large chuck of the pitch marshalled by just the three at the back.
The best news about the change in system by the manager is that midfield shall hardly be a problem for us this year despite the absence of a defensive midfielder. The 5 in midfield means that we shall match if not dominate our opponents in the most crucial part of the pitch. It is quite long since United could go into a game comfortable with their midfield resources. Ander Herrera and Darren Fletcher should continue to perform in that role until something happens in the transfer window. Juan Mata has been liberated of all unnatural midfield duties to concentrate on goals and assists upfront. It means we can afford to get Ander and Darren to provide the all important sheild for the back three. It will be interesting whether Reece James will be entrusted with RWB if Valencia doesn't make it. He and Ashley Young are the best available options for the demanding wing back positions. Young has redefined himself to thrive in the LWB position and the injury to Luke means that he has at least a month in the season to try and make that number his own. His performances in pre season have a times beggared belief to the extent that he might have just given Shaw a good run for his money in that position.
We still have one of the best forward lines in the country. Wayne Rooney ought to make the most of being played in his favourite position for the first time in quite a while. Number 10 duties are no longer in his Terms of Reference, so you hope that he concentrates on banging them in more frequently this season. He is captain of the team now, so it will be interesting to see how he is liberated by the new role. Robin van Persie is still not fit enough but as and when he does, our attack should just about pick itself week in, week out. Javier Hernandez is still subject of transfer speculation, but for as long as Welbeck is still injured, he is a shoe in to start the season alongside Wayne upfront.
The season starts at home against Swansea City, who have managed to eek themsleves in Manchester United history by providing the opposition at the behinning or end of a new era at United recently. Old Trafford was a horror ground for us last season, the challenge is there to make it a horror ground for opponents again.
Tuesday's performance was the worst so far under the new regime. We shall have to perform much better to get the three points tomorrow. Given the low levels of confidence from last season, it is important to hit the ground running so as to build momentum early on and get our mojo back.
It's quite a while since we started the league season at home. Saturday should be a special occassion. The real business starts now.
SO COME ON UNITED!