Manchester United: 11 Reasons Red Devils Will Bounce Back Next Season
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Though Manchester United did not perform up to their usual high standards this past season, the Red Devils will surely be back to their winning ways next season.
After all, as American priest Walter Elliott once wrote: “Perseverance is not a long race. It is many short races one after another.”
The proverb could not be applied in more appropriate circumstances than football and, more specifically, the Premier League.
Manchester United will certainly look back on the 2011-12 season and pick out various points at which they think that they could have salvaged something from the campaign were it not for a pass too sloppily made, a tackle put in too late or a shot unnecessarily powered over the bar.
However, it’s the mark of a truly "great" side—in the word’s most basic definition—to bounce back from such disappointment in the only way that great sides can.
So, let us look forward, not back, and discuss why it is that Manchester United will return stronger and better equipped for the 2012-13 season.
Return of Injured Stars
Vidic: An incalculable absence
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First, let’s look at what is probably the biggest elephant in this particular "room."
In the 2011-'12 campaign, Manchester United came at the bottom of the "Injury League"—an analysis conducted by physioroom.com.
The study ascertained that the Red Devils took on board more "significant" injuries than any other team in the English top flight last season, with "significant" defined as a period of 14 days or more.
Who came out on the other end of the results, you ask? Well, of course it turned out be bitter United rivals and eventual league winners, Manchester City.
Without the intention of playing devil’s advocate, it would seem that at least a slight portion of the Citizens’ title-winning campaign is owed to luck.
For Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, Nemanja Vidic was a monumental figure in defence and an invaluable loss.
As if being knocked out of the Champions League weren’t enough, the Serbian international suffered a serious twisted knee against FC Basel that ruled him out for the rest of the term.
It’s safe to say that Vidic is a terrific defender, but the loss of your club captain can only be compared to City losing Vincent Kompany—the Premier League Player of the Year—for seven months.
To summarise such an event in two words: season-ending.
As well as Vidic, Darren Fletcher, Tom Cleverley, Anderson, Anders Lindegaard, Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young also had periods of at least 14 days absent through injury along with others.
If United were to experience the same misfortune next season, the Glazer family might as well forget about ever trying to win the lottery as their luck would most certainly seemed to have run dry at that point.
Provided such injuries don’t occur again, the Manchester United squad will be a rejuvenated one in 2012-'13.
No Element of Surprise
Pardew and Martinez: Both shock underdogs
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Last season brought us a host of surprises: Newcastle’s surge on the Champions League spots. Manchester City’s somewhat surprising title triumph. Wigan’s late rise in form as well as Everton’s similar boost into the top seven and above local rivals Liverpool.
One thing these four teams have in common is that they all earned a result against Manchester United in at least one fixture during the last campaign.
However, as the old adage goes, mistakes are there to be made so that we may learn from them.
Given the money that the club has spent over the last five years, Manchester City’s talent wasn’t a huge surprise to onlookers, but even Sir Alex Ferguson appeared to make tactical error when playing against Roberto Mancini’s men.
There’s no doubt that the next 12 months will present yet more surprises that none of us can help but fail to anticipate.
That being said, at least the next campaign won’t yield the exact same surprises that the Red Devils fell victim to in 2011-'12 as the club are undoubtedly too experienced and under management too sophisticated not to educate themselves from previous pitfalls.
Welbeck & Jones: First Premier League winner's medals
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It has never been a secret that Sir Alex Ferguson favours the young.
The Scotsman usually manages to blend an appropriate amount of experience and youth that more often than not results in silverware or at least a serious challenge for some.
When the likes of Phil Jones, David de Gea and Ashley Young arrived at Old Trafford last summer, the club was riding high on their Premier League win and were not too long after succumbing to the Barcelona machine in the Champions League final.
Regardless, spirits were high for Manchester United.
As is always the risk, though, where once there was a hunger for success, self-entitlement set in. Where a passion for the game used to reign supreme, a sense of complacency nestled.
Following several seasons of investment, the United squad is now an extremely young one, and apart from several experienced figures such as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and several others, much of the roster are aged 25 or under.
In a way, Ferguson will be thanking the heavens that his dynasty tasted defeat so early on in this "new generation" of Manchester United and will now be priming his youngsters to evolve.
A large portion of the group came to Old Trafford as boys, but the upcoming season will be their first of many as men, putting past mistakes to good use as a lot of players seek their first taste of Premier League success.
Kagawa: Bags packed for Old Trafford?
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As is always the case with a team of Manchester United’s stature, transfer speculation tends to surround a club at this time of year, especially when said club has the funds at their disposal that the Red Devils are fortunate enough to allegedly have.
Shinji Kagawa is the most likely candidate to join the United cause in the coming months, with countless media outlets reporting that the Japanese midfielder is on the brink of a summer switch to the club.
No matter how they may turn out, it’s impossible to gauge whether a signing will be a success or a flop at a new club until they actually start playing in their fresh surroundings.
As we all know through just about every media format, the pair haven’t been as successful as one would have predicted, but that’s the advantage of hindsight.
There are of course other cases of "failures" within football, but to stay up to date with pop culture and Internet comedy, the duo are the most apt example here.
The point is that whatever moves Sir Alex Ferguson makes this summer, his fans will have faith in the cause and are bound to be excited by the new faces they might see flashing their stuff at the club next season.
As such, the simple morale boost of fresh acquisitions will be a considerable asset to the squad.
Not to mention that Ferguson has become quite the dab hand at transfers over the last 25 years, and any talent that does come in would undoubtedly add to the team’s trophy push.
Manchester CIty: Will they retain the title?
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It’s one thing for Manchester United to surrender the Premier League title. It’s an altogether different disappointment when you consider that it was Manchester City that stripped the Red Devils of their trophy.
After years of gradual ascension, the team that Sir Alex Ferguson not so long ago dubbed United’s "noisy neighbours" have finally taken the crown that, at times, it seemed only inevitable that they someday would.
In April of this year, Ferguson finally conceded that Manchester City had become United’s greatest rivals, replacing the steadily declining figure of Liverpool, who once sat as a mighty power amongst the English elite but now resemble a whimpering shade of their former selves at times.
Although player talent will play the massive part that it always does in the title race of 2012-'13, the incentive to make sure that the Premier League title doesn’t find its way back to the Etihad Stadium next year will also be a huge factor.
Chelsea won the Champions League, Liverpool won the Carling Cup and obviously Roberto Mancini led his City side to league victory.
Looking back at the Manchester United campaign of 2011-'12, it seems as if just about everyone around them is winning competitions. Although August brought them the Community Shield, the Red Devils should be out to spring from their current fiery depths so that they can make a rampant return this time around.
Transitional Period Finished
De Gea: A more assured figure
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The 2011-'12 season was always going to be one of transition at Old Trafford.
Over the summer, the club had lost several seasoned figures either through sale or retirement, and while it may have lowered the aggregate age amongst the playing staff, an invaluable maturity was lost.
Edwin van der Sar was an absolutely priceless player during his time with the club. The Dutchman had broken numerous goalkeeping records during his six seasons under Sir Alex Ferguson, and his retirement from such a pivotal role meant that there were big boots to fill in between the sticks.
It wasn’t just the No. 1 jersey that was vacated however.
Paul Scholes, a hero and deserved legend at the club for whom he had played his entire career, finally called it a day at the end of the 2010-'11 campaign, again leaving a legacy more than difficult to follow for whoever was unlucky enough to occupy his position next.
To add to these exits, John O’Shea and Wes Brown were sold to Sunderland in a double deal, and people tend to forget just how much the pair were missed.
While they may not have been the most gifted of defenders, O’Shea and Brown were players loyal to the club that could be relied upon in those periods that Sir Alex Ferguson so aptly coined as “squeaky bum time”: the dying minutes of a match when nerves are at their highest and calm heads are required more than ever.
The two of them clocked up more than 700 appearances for United altogether, and when you consider the manager that they were playing under, you can bet it was for good reason.
The "new breed" have had a season to settle in now, and the younger stars at Old Trafford have now had enough time to get to grips with their new surroundings.
As a unit, United will be stronger next season. It’s time to forget about what success the club has had over the last twenty years and look toward what’s coming in the next twenty.
Veterans' Last Hurrah?
Giggs (left) & Scholes (right): United Legends
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As touched upon in the last slide, Paul Scholes has already tasted the not-so-sweet relief of retirement once in the last 12 months.
The ginger midfielder couldn’t accept the "feet-up" lifestyle quite yet and swiftly answered the call of his former manager to play a major, albeit futile role in United’s 2011-'12 season.
It was confirmed earlier this week that Scholes had put pen to paper on a one-year extension that would keep him at the club until next summer.
However, another veteran who will be out of contract in 2013 is Ryan Giggs who, by then, will be an incredible 39 years old.
Even with all the yoga practice in the world, one would have to admit that both midfielders bowing out of the playing aspect of the sport once and for all next summer is a firm possibility.
Both players were at the club as youngsters all those seasons ago when, in the inaugural season of the Premier League, Manchester United came back from a 25-year drought to win top spot in England’s first division.
So, how fitting would it be that, exactly twenty years later, the duo helped the club for whom they had pledged their entire careers to win the league one final time, as a send-off only suitable for someone of their stature?
At the risk of tempting the very nature of the force itself, it could just be fate.
The End of the Ferguson Era?
Ferguson: A departing figure at Old Trafford?
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Unfortunately for supporters of the club, this may not just be the final farewell for some of Manchester United’s most prestigious players. It may also mark the end of a long and trophy-laden reign at the club for Sir Alex Ferguson.
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan, a personal friend of Ferguson’s, has remarked lately that the man currently leading United will finally take his leave from management and accept a long-protracted retirement at the end of next season.
The 70-year-old has most definitely had his downs during a 26-year stay at Old Trafford, but the ups are assured to be what he is remembered for.
Ferguson came to Manchester United after briefly managing the Scottish national team, and suffice it to say, the club wasn’t held in nearly the same light when he took over as they are now.
The Red Devils have won a prolific 37 titles with Sir Alex Ferguson leading them, not to mention the near endless list of personal accolades that the Scotsman has picked up during that time.
Speculation has long foretold the departure of Ferguson, and several names continue to arise as plausible replacements for the legendary manager.
However, those at the club will be completely focused on the here and now rather than looking towards who may or may not replace their leader, whether it’s next summer or some time in the more distant future.
If this were indeed to be Ferguson’s last season at United, than what better way to say goodbye to his beloved club than by taking the Premier League crown back from the club that obnoxiously arose to take it from him in the first place.
If it wasn’t said in the last slide, the stars may have already written that the 2012-'13 campaign be a very successful one for Manchester United before what will undoubtedly turn out to be tough times ahead.
Experience Will Prove Invaluable
Three key figures for Manchester United
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Although the 2012-13 term could provide the first trophy for a big contingent of the youngsters at the club, a season with only the Community Shield as silverware won’t have gone down too well with some of Manchester United’s veterans either.
Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Wayne Rooney, along with others, have all become quite accustomed to the feel of a tournament trophy in their hands.
As such, you can bet that no matter how much money is spent on transfers amongst the big English sides this summer, it will be the seasoned bunch at Old Trafford who really lead the march back on the Premier League pursuit.
It’s arguable that the 2011-'12 season was Manchester United’s worst Premier League season to date, and although it wasn’t strictly "trophy-less," the veterans at the club certainly won’t be keen on earning anything less than an improvement come next May.
A Fresh European Campaign
Champions League title: A distant challenge
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A new season. A new Champions League tournament.
The Red Devils were ousted from last year’s competition at the hands of FC Basel, Benfica and Otelul Galati in the group stage, a shock exit that many put down to complacency.
Critics commented that Manchester United underestimated their "inferior" opposition and, for that reason, found themselves in the Europa League.
However, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men didn’t fare too much better in that respect either, and to cap off a truly disappointing European run, the then-reigning Premier League champions were soundly thrashed by an uprising Athletic Bilbao team led by Marcelo Bielsa.
Like so many other mistakes that were made in the 2011-12 term, you can almost bet that the same ones won’t be replicated in this latest chapter of the sport, kicking off once again in August.
In total, Manchester United have won the Champions League twice and once more back when it was the European Cup.
Their latest triumph came in the 2007-'08 installment, so the side are anything but unaccustomed to what’s required of a winning outfit.
Many of the younger and less experienced United playing staff will have been overpowered by the majesty of the occasion last season, but with a more mature approach, the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and David de Gea, etc., will fulfill the legacy laid out before them this season.
The 'Manchester United Way'
Success: Trophies coming back to Old Trafford?
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The last 20 years are littered with moments of dogged stubbornness that frequently result in a late comeback swinging in the favour of Manchester United when it perhaps shouldn’t have.
The trend has become so common that even if the side are down in the scoreline when entering the final minutes of a match, there’s still that sense of inevitability in the air that doesn’t let you believe that United are beaten just yet.
You’ll often hear commentators elude to these late scores, perhaps referencing examples of comebacks past or just touching on the club’s domination and experience within modern football, sometimes accompanied by a cheer in the background to signal the occurrence of the very thing that they were predicting.
The most famous example of one of these late shows is, of course, the drama that unfolded in the 1999 Champions League final when United scored two injury-time goals to eventually beat Bayern Munich 2-1 and seal that season’s treble.
However, we can look at a long list of other cases: the Steve Bruce brace against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993, the Federico Macheda turn-and-shot winner against Aston Villa in 2009 or even the last-ditch Michael Owen finisher against Manchester City of the same year.
In short, Manchester United are nothing if not resilient.
As an irrelevant yet appropriate sidenote, if they were to win this Premier League season 20 years after the division officially began, it would be the club’s 13th such title.
A number that is often seen as bad luck in modern culture, but yielding happiness for a side that has made it their business to overcome the odds.
Truly, the "Manchester United way," wouldn’t you say?