Manchester United: 11 Bold Predictions for 2012-13 Season
After the agony of losing the title to their neighbours with the last kick of the season, many questioned how Man United would move forward.
Man City are on the rise, Ferguson’s career is seemingly coming to an end and the weight of debt is beginning to affect the club. People have questioned if the unprecedented success of the previous 20 years is coming to an end.
With the season less than a month away here are a few bold predictions of how I see the next 12 months going for the Red Devils.
1. De Gea Will Become the Best Goalkeeper in England
After his first few months in a Man United shirt, many were beginning to question the decision to sign David de Gea. Some even labelled him a flop while ignoring the extenuating circumstances.
He struggled to communicate with his back four due to the language barrier. There was constant chopping and changing in the personnel in front of him and he was adapting to a new country away from friends and family.
After a brief spell on the sidelines he returned and flashed the brilliance that persuaded Fergie to splash £17 million on him over more famous names like Neuer, Lloris and Stekelenburg.
With 12 months in England behind him and Nemanja Vidic returning to anchor the defence he will overtake Peter Cech and Pepe Reina as the best No. 1 in the EPL.
2. Their Stock Market Float Will Be Wildly Successful
Many have focused on the negatives of the prospectus the board released in relation to the IPO. They focused on the potential pitfalls alluded to and ignored the favourable points raised.
Why? Because it makes better headlines which sell more papers. What they failed to mention was that the Glazers had to list all potential risks and that these were worst case scenarios. Switching from Singapore to the U.S. meant the club could no longer rely on their rabid Asian fan base buying shares.
The focus would now be on the club as a business model. And in that regard few clubs can match United. Strong commercial contracts with known American brands like AON, GM and Nike will appeal to U.S. investors as will the recently inked deal with DHL.
The timing of the £3 billion EPL TV deal couldn’t have been better in terms of the IPO. Sports are big business these days and the money involved continues to grow.
It’s not often an asset like Man United goes on the market so I expect the shares to be snapped up and the club to make well in excess of the £100 million guideline.
3. They Will Struggle in the First Month or so
Last season Man United started like a freight train. They started with five wins on the bounce and a goals record of 21 for and four against despite playing three top-five teams.
But they finished with two defeats and a draw in their last six games. This was very out of character for a Ferguson team.
Normally, they start slow, gain momentum as the season progresses and finish the season at an unstoppable pace. With the added workload of Euro 2012 and the Olympics disrupting preseason, United will stumble out of the blocks.
4. But They Will Finish at Pace
After United face City at Old Trafford on the 6th of April, they have a decent run in.
The only major obstacles are Arsenal away and Chelsea at home both of which are winnable games. After throwing away an eight-point lead during the run in last season, Fergie won’t make the same mistake.
He will pace his team over the season and finish on a high. With a summer off to look forward to the players will give their all and sweep all before them aside.
5. Rooney Will Be EPL's Top Scorer
In the last three seasons, Wayne Rooney has become the goal scorer Fergie envisioned when he spent £27 million on him as a teenager. He has finished as Golden Boot runner-up twice in the last three years.
This season will see him finish as the winner for the first time. He formed a great partnership with Danny Welbeck last year and the relationship will continue to thrive. Welbeck has the ability to drop into the hole behind the striker and play incisive passes which will free Rooney up to be the focal point of the attack.
Add to that Rooney’s relationship with Valencia and the signings of Kagawa and Powell who can both play in the hole will see Rooney win the Golden Boot. Also the departure of Drogba, formally of Torres, the uncertainty surrounding RVP and the number of top strikers at City all plays into his hands.
6. The Return of the Baby-Faced Assassin
A few years ago, the name of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was at the bottom of the list when it came to potential replacements for Fergie but that has all changed. After a successful 18 months as Reserve team manager he returned home to manage Molde.
It was an inspired move as he led them to their first ever League title during their centenary year in just his first season in charge and now has them within touching distance of a second title.
This success has seen him being linked to a number of jobs, from Aston Villa to the Norwegian national team (per the Daily Mail), but he turned them all down. I think he will return to United next season and replace Mike Phelan as assistant manager with a view to replacing Fergie in the next year or two.
7. The Demise of Patrice Evra
For a number of years Patrice Evra was considered among the best left backs in the world. Solid defensively and a rampaging attacker, he was the perfect fullback for our style of play.
In the last 12 months however, chinks have appeared in the armour. The Luis Suarez affair, which went in his favour, damaged his reputation among neutrals. While he was named captain for much of the season many questioned his leadership at key moments during the season.
He also lost a yard of pace which lead to him being exposed on occasion. He was no longer able to use his speed and strength to compensate for his weaknesses defensively.
To remain at a high level he will need to sacrifice some of his attacking instincts and I don’t see that happening. The links with Leighton Baines won’t go away and his arrival would surely end Evra’s reign at left back (from Goal.com).
8. United Will Regain the League Title
Ferguson has made no secret of his desire to win in Europe over the years. He sees it as the pinnacle of success and would love nothing more than to join Bob Paisley with three wins as the most successful manager in European Cup history.
That said he has never sacrificed success at home in pursuit of this goal. Seeing City steal the title away from Old Trafford on the last day of the season will have hurt and Ferguson will make winning at home his priority.
City on the other hand will now be turning their eyes towards Europe and won’t be as hungry as they were last season. As they say winning is hard but repeating is harder. Ferguson and his team will exploit this to bring home the clubs 20th League title.
9. But Will Fail in Europe
Much will depend on the draw but United simply are not ready to beat either Real Madrid or Barcelona.
After the debacle of last season United will not risk coasting through the group stages again. They will not underestimate their weaker opponents and won’t leave anything to chance.
They will make it out of their group with ease and depending on the draw could make the semifinals, but that’s where the dream will end. The pressure of competing on numerous fronts will see them crash out at the penultimate stage of the Champions League.
10. And They Will Win One of the Cups
United have a much stronger squad now than in the last few years. Players like Anders Lindegaard, Chris Smalling, Javier Hernandez, Ashley Young and Anderson have found themselves on the fringes of the first team and will form the basis of the cup side.
Add to them youngsters like Jones, Powell, Wooton and Brady who will be eager to make an impression and Shinji Kagawa who will use the cups to acclimatize and you have a potent mix.
Depending on the draws United will bring home one of the cups. Having gone eight years without winning the FA Cup, I can see that being a priority.
11. There Will Be One High-Profile, Big-Money Signing
Madrid and Barcelona tend to make one big move every summer while the new money sides have spending binges before tailing off. United, on the other hand, follow a different method when it comes to squad building.
They tend to build slowly by signing prospects and role players while splashing out every three or four years on a big money signing to add an X-factor.
United have gone four years since they spent £30 million on Dimitar Berbatov. Last summer the board set aside funds to sign Sneijder or Nasri but both moves fell through so a big move this summer is almost inevitable.
Numerous names have been bandied around in recent months from Sneijder to Martinez to Modric and now Lucas and Van Persie. Whoever they sign he will be a big name that will create a buzz and excite the fanbase. It also won’t hurt the clubs aforementioned float.