Season Preview: Open Letter to United Defenders

nigel smithCorrespondent IJuly 28, 2009

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 15:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United celebrates with his team mates after scoring the opening goal; his 100th goal for Manchester United, during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on November 15, 2008 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Hello lads,

You're back in training now and the preseason seems to be going well. Like most fans, I suppose you've been reflecting on the past year. Did it all seem flat after the Roman anti-climax?

It's strange really that a football season should be like a pop concert—you only remember the first and last notes! That logic pays scant regard to what was quite obviously a highly successful campaign. If United can bag three trophies next term, you'll be dancing on the ceiling like all of the Red faithful.

Edwin, you in particular will want to focus attention on the record-breaking run at the turn of the 2009 which became the platform upon which the team's third successive title was constructed.

The media snipers said you were at least a season past your sell-by date but they looked foolish as the iron shutters went down and United built up a head of steam after the return from the World Champions tournament.

We all came crashing down to earth when Liverpool came to town and I have to say Nemanja, you didn't quite carry the same authority again. It was said thereafter that you don't fancy the quick striker who can make you look something of a plodder.

That image was cemented when you fell over as you tangled with a nobody from Wigan who gleefully stole in to score in a late-season heart-quickner.

Reputations are everything, Nemanja. Although all good judges rate you among the world's top 10 defenders, you will want to kill off the whispers that Torres has you in his pocket when United next run out against Liverpool.

I'm pleased that you'll be staying with the team, at least for another year and I'm praying that your wife gets enough vitamin D despite the gloomy weather in Cheshire.

As for you Rio, you'll just want to complete a full season without your back giving out, especially in World Cup year. Everyone appreciates you these days and United are not quite the same when you are on the sidelines.

Your forays into the media suggest a manager in waiting and with some five years of top class football ahead of you, you'll want to continue the winning run of the past three campaigns.

You've spoken highly of young Jonny. Is he in your nightmares too, as the youngster who could eventually take out the old retainer? Not for a couple of seasons yet, you'll wager and with the doubts surrounding £30 million-rated Nemanja, maybe the Irishman is destined to be your partner rather than your replacement.

No need for you to play the role of innocent freshman these days Master Jonny. You were United's Young Player of the Year by a country mile, a worthy tribute to some outstanding performances.

It should not easily be forgotten that Lord Ferg chopped and changed his defensive lineup all season and but for some shoddiness at the beginning and the end, you all played a blinder.

Keeping it going next season is your No. 1 assignment, Jonny. The manager has been true to his word when dismissing Sunderland's £10 million bid for your services last year. He said that you would have a big future at the club. Provided you negotiate safely the team's Christmas knees-ups and maintain your form, he should be proved right.

I hope the same can be said about you Rafael. United and Brazilians in the same sentence just feels right and everyone is hoping that you can out-perform your countryman, the excellent Barcelona fullback Daniel Alves. Coaches are beginning to see your position as perhaps the most important in a football team.

I don't quite get the theory myself but apparently, fullbacks have more freedom than team mates further up the field to get forward and exploit opponents' positional weaknesses.

That's why Liverpool have paid a king's ransom for the good but not great Glenn Johnson. Goodness, he's gone from being a £4 million young waster to an £18 million star in the making. Like the United bean-counters, I'm crossing my fingers that your value will sky-rocket in similar fashion.

I have to say though that I'm concerned that the rigours of English football might be too much for you, given last season's injury record. My neighbour speaks highly of a strange blend of eggs, sugar, Guinness, and condensed milk, as a way to fill out the frame, but I suppose that won't do in these days of expert nutrition.

Still, get to work with the physical conditioner who put kilos of muscle on Ronaldo's spindly frame and you'll reap the reward of making the United right back spot your own.

No one is challenging you Patrice over on the left flank and to my mind, more's the pity. It's been well documented that you went from crap to colossus in 18 months but are you satisfied with your work last term? Have you been watching too many of the 'How To' videos marketed by Team-Alves? If so, remember that defenders are there to defend also.

Like Nemanja allowing Torres to get the better of him and letting Eto'o make him look like a rank amateur on talent night at the Apollo Theatre, you also have a demon to slay next season.

He's short, has a peculiar damage to his eye-brow, answers to the name of Lennon, plays in London and has run rings around you for two years. Let him know whose boss next time, Paddy.

Wesley, you'll want to forget last year. You probably hope that with South Africa 2010 on the horizon, your body can hold firm for a year or so before you take another nine month break in 2011. Just as well the new contract was sorted out last year!

Gary, I fear the end is near, after more than a decade at the very top. You've already cried off from taking part in the preseason tour because of injury and frankly, you've spent more time with the doctor than with your wife and team mates these past two years.

Sometimes, the body wont do what the mind wants and so, I encourage you to finish the coaching badges and heed the call of destiny by taking your place in the dug-out - sheepskin, moustache, anti-Scouse vitriol, the works!

As for you Ben, the sole question, now that you have trousered the new deal, is can you make it at United? You look like a 'Sure Thing' but then so did Hilary Clinton before everyone went Obarmy.

That's the thing with predictions. No-one knows nothing! You have all the attributes to make it as a top keeper. The manager says you should be keeping goal for the national team, if not for the nation's top side. All you have to do now is displace EVDS and that is no easy task.

Media leaks say the Dutchman is retiring. Is that the work of Team Foster, hoping to nudge him towards tending his rose-buds, so that you can have a clear path to the first 11?

After all, Kus is no real competition, is he. Shouldn't he have been sold already? Yes, the Pole looks like a decent shot-stopper but it's all about confidence and he inspires little.

When it comes to inspiration, I take my hat off to you, John O'Shea. Never has so little gone so far! I remember Sheasy, when you were nutmegging Figo. It looked like you would be a world-beater.

Those days have long gone but you are still there, putting in shifts for United, scoring the winner in the Champions League semi-final and filling-in whenever and wherever you are asked to play. Fullback, centre half, centre midfield, striker or keeper—it's all the same to you.

A team is only as good as it's substitutes, so I know United will be alright this year. Nice one.

Best of luck for the new season


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