Manchester United: 5 Reasons Why United Are Better Than They Were Last Year
Despite falling agonizingly short in their quest for the English Premier League last season and despite the fact they won no trophies at all, few would dispute that Manchester United were good in 2011.
Their attack was strong, their midfield was good, and they were one of the top football clubs on the planet—as many expected that they would be.
Yet in 2012, they are far stronger than they were in 2011; read on to see five key reasons why Manchester United are definitely a better team this year than they were last year.
1. The Addition of Robin van Persie
Michael Regan/Getty Images
It's hard to have any discussion about the improvements that Manchester United have this year without talking about their biggest summer transfer, Robin van Persie.
The Dutch international striker netted 30 league goals for Arsenal last year and is easily one of the top 10 strikers in world football at the moment; so for United to sign him and partner him with England international Wayne Rooney is incredible for the Red Devils.
No disrespect to Danny Welbeck, but he simply isn't the same class as Van Persie, who leads all scorers in the English Premier League so far this year—despite only starting three matches for the club.
Having RVP in the squad means that United can rotate their front men throughout the year, and not lose a beat should one of their star strikers go down with injury, like Rooney has already this year.
Would United have beaten Liverpool at Anfield, beaten Wigan 4-0, won their Champions League match and scored two goals in five minutes to beat Southampton in a three-week period without Wayne Rooney last year?
That's why having Van Persie around is a huge addition this season.
2. Better Attacking Midfield
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Not so this year.
The addition of Shinji Kagawa into the trequartista position has brought new life into United's midfield and given them more attacking options and chances going forward.
They've moved to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Van Persie and Kagawa (which we'll get to in a minute) to boost their attack, but most importantly, they haven't sacrificed any defensive assistance and involvement in the process.
3. Defense Has Depth
Gallo Images/Getty Images
United's season was over last year when Nemanja Vidic went down injured in the UEFA Champions League. Whilst they would come very close and put up a number of strong performances in defense, United simply didn't have the defensive options available to them that other clubs have.
And despite the fact that Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are all currently unavailable due to injury for United, their defense is far better equipped to deal with that than they were last year.
Alexander Buttner is a future Premier League star, and the likes of youngsters Scott Wootton, Michael Keane and Marnick Vermijl—who all showed great promise in United's victory over Newcastle—are all available for Sir Alex Ferguson if need be.
Obviously, the Red Devils would love the likes of Jones and Vidic to be healthy, and will boast a formidable defensive unit when they are. Yet in the mean time, they hold far better defensive depth this season than they did last year.
4. Squad Depth in General
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Whilst we're on that, United have better squad depth in general than they did last year. Not in terms of having more players—they can only have the same number of players that they did last year—but in terms of the talent, experience and skill that's in their squad.
Think of the players that Sir Alex Ferguson can choose his midfield from. Kagawa, Valencia, Young, Nani, Scholes, Carrick, Giggs, Cleverley, Fletcher, Anderson—they're all quality players who would likely find positions in any starting side, yet are left to compete for their positions in this United roster.
Now look at United's work over the summer transfer window, particularly in the players that they have brought in compared to those they let go over the offseason. I've included them in a table below (per The Daily Mail), and what is clear is the definite advantage that this year's squad has over last year's.
|Robin van Persie||Dimitar Berbatov|
|Shinji Kagawa||Michael Owen|
|Alexander Buttner||Fabio Da Silva|
|Nick Powell||Paul Pogba|
|Angelo Henriquez||Richie De Laet
5. Abandoned the 4-4-2
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Finally, despite all the success that Manchester United have had with the 4-4-2 formation over the years, the decision to move towards the 4-2-3-1 formation—that is becoming more and more popular in world football—is a very good move for the Red Devils.
Simply put, it benefits their attack without sacrificing their defense.
United love to utilize their wingers in Young, Nani and Valencia, and are better equipped to do so in the 4-2-3-1 formation—giving them more room down the flanks. It also brings in full-backs Buttner, Evra and Rafael, and allows their attacking qualities to shine.
It gives them stability in central midfield, with the two defensive midfielders holding and setting up the attacks. The likes of Carrick, Cleverley and to an extent, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs can all thrive in this role—better than they could have done in a 4-4-2 formation.
There is little doubt that Manchester United are a better team than they were last year; now all that remains is for the club to win more titles than they did last year.
Which, at this point in the season, seems a very likely outcome.
Are Manchester United better this far than they were last year?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre