Premier League 2013/2014: 5 Predictions for Man Utd Ahead of the New Season
The 2013/2014 season is upon us. No longer will you be flicking over the sports channels to find any sign of a football match, or pretend you even care about Tennis or Cricket just because you want a taste of sporting action.
Sure, depending on what happens, within a few weeks you will be wishing the season never got under way so soon. But what else would you be doing with your weekend? Picnicking in your local park? Going on bike rides on a bike you completely forgot you even had?
As always when the new season draws ever closer the "experts" come up with their predictions. League winners, top goalscorers, relegation battlers and the top four finishers.
These are my five expert predictions for Manchester United in their first Premier League season without Sir Alex Ferguson in charge. Expertly thought about and expertly chosen.
Man Utd Fail in Title Defense
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Starting on a negative note. Manchester United will fail in their bid to defend the Premier League title. Call it a 'season of transition' if it makes you feel better, but this could be a tough first season for David Moyes by Man United standards.
Firstly, the change in manager after more than 20 years under the same man will take some adjusting. The only similarities between Sir Alex and Moyes are their nationality and stern authority. Training methods, fitness regimes and tactics will still be different.
Then there is the lack of signings on Man United's part, and the quality signings made by their title rivals. Moyes still has time to bring in a signing or two, but the squad needed the four signings he was aiming for earlier in the summer.
Wayne Rooney is currently set to sulk mode and could still leave so a replacement would be needed for him. If he stays, then Moyes is left with a begrudged player who may not perform at his best, so a signing will still be needed to cover for him.
Man United are also in desperate need of a midfielder. Six years have passed since Owen Hargreaves was signed, which is far too long without another quality addition. The goals and trophies have helped pave over the cracks but they will not get away with it this season.
Chelsea have Mourinho and a quality team which severely underachieved last season. Manchester City have tactical mastermind Manuel Pellegrini and the best squad in the league. With Sergio Aguero fit and the signings of Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas and Stevan Jovetic, the former champions have the right blend of defensive depth and variety in attack. The current champions will not be able to compete.
Man Utd to Battle with Arsenal and Spurs for 3rd and 4th
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Man United was streaks ahead of both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur last season, but this season the gap will close and it will be a triple-threat for the two remaining Champions League places.
Manchester City and Chelsea will compete for the title and comfortably claim the top two spots. Man United will have fallen behind just after the dreaded Christmas period and will now be in a scrap for Champion League football.
Spurs have spent big this summer and this prediction depends on how much of an impact those signings make. Keeping Gareth Bale will also be key, and with the addition of Paulinho, Soldado and the return of Sandro the North London side have a strong enough squad to qualify for Europe's premier club competition.
Arsenal so far look like it will be the same squad unless they offer the right money for Luis Suarez. They missed out on Higuain to Napoli and other than letting go some of the dead wood they have not made any positive moves this window.
They do, however, still have a squad good enough to challenge for the Champions League places. They will benefit from having the full services of Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey will also continue to improve. The end of last season is a good indication of where the squad is as far as their development as a team, and their form was impressive.
Man United can still expect to finish third, but it will be more of an obstacle course than usual. With the squad as it is it will be extremely close, but add the right players then they will confirm the Champions League football with a few games to spare, and maybe even have third place in the bag.
Man Utd to Exit the Champions League in the Last 16
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Man United will struggle in the Champions League this season. David Moyes' inexperience of managing at the highest level will show in his first season, which will be very much a learning curve for the Scotsman.
If the Red Devils finish top of their group but still end up with a tough draw like last season when they faced Real Madrid, then Moyes can be forgiven for being knocked out this early. However, this will not be the case.
Man United will have what looks like a favourable draw after scraping top position in their group, but it will be a draw with a tough away leg. The last 16 is early enough in the season to take place in a period of turmoil for the champions as they see their hopes of retaining the title fade dramatically.
The pressure will tell and the team will fail to score in the away leg, but will concede at home and go out via the dreaded away goal rule, increasing the strain on the squad and manager.
Being knocked out will go on to be a surprising relief and will help them seal a place in next season's Champions League. Every cloud.
Man United to Win the F.A. Cup
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It will not be all doom and gloom. Moyes has a decent track record in the F.A. Cup in recent years, despite losing to Wigan Athletic in the quarter-finals last season.
He took Everton to the final in 2009 when they lost to Chelsea. The Blues also reached the semi-finals in 2012, but were beaten by Merseyside rivals Liverpool at Wembley 2-1.
These are all failures, but Moyes now has a better squad at his disposal, and if he does manage to bring in at least a couple of signings then Man United will have what it takes to go all the way.
It has been nine years since Roy Keane lifted the FA Cup after a comfortable win over Millwall, but this season the club with most FA wins will add No. 12 to the record books.
Ryan Giggs to Retire
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The 2013/2014 season will be the last of Man United great Ryan Giggs. He has already started the transition from player to coach and by the end of the season he will be 40 years of age.
Paul Scholes and Sir Alex retired last season and it is now the right time for Giggs. His appearances are few and far between and of those his efforts are not at the level they need to be anymore. Giggs will be thinking the same.
It will not end on too much of a sad note. If Moyes is sentimental enough, Giggs may get a run out in the FA Cup final I have predicted they will be in, and he could even lift the trophy.
Giggs has made 941 appearances for Man United. He has won everything and has stuck by the same club throughout. He is part of a dying breed in football, you only have to look at team-mate Rooney to see that. However, it is not the end of Giggs in football. Who knows what awaits in his coaching career?