Manchester United: Predicting the Reds' 6 Most Influential Players

Ryan RodgersContributor IAugust 1, 2011

Manchester United: Predicting the Reds' 6 Most Influential Players

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    Each year, new Manchester United players captivate World Football.  These players influence challenge for titles both domestically and abroad.

    Last season Javier Hernandez, Nemanja Vidic and Nani were among United's most influential players.

    This season, new players are bound to step up and lead Manchester United to even more glory.

    Here are the top six players most likely to influence United's push for more silverware this coming season.

6. Tom Cleverley

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    With Manchester United seemingly distancing themselves from a big money move for Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder, Sneijder appears to be trying to stop the train before it pulls out of the station.

    If that proverbial train—Manchester United—does decide to not acquire Sneijder's signature, things may not look so glum after all.

    After an impressive display against a half-strength Barcelona, Tom Cleverly proved that Manchester United might not need to splash the cash.

    Manchester United have always looked to promote from within their ranks, and Cleverly would be an ideal candidate to replace Paul Scholes.

    With a similar style of play to Scholes, Cleverly relies on his soccer IQ and skill set to orchestrate from the middle of the park.

    Experience will decide if 21-year-old Cleverly has what it takes to succeed or not.

    If given games, Cleverly could just make United fans utter "Wesley who?"

5. Rafael Pereira Da Silva

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    He's been a work in progress for some time now, but Rafael appears ready to deputize the right-back spot for good.

    At 21 years of age, Rafael should be able to provide a decade of stability in Gary Neville's old spot.

    With John O'Shea off to Sunderland, and Gary Neville off to Sky Sports, Rafael will be seemingly uncontested in the right back position.

    Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are both capable of playing at right-back, but neither bring Rafael's explosiveness and attacking prowess to United's game.

    This season will decide if Fergie has successfully polished a gem, or if Rafael just hasn't got what it takes.

    Given Rafael's performances this summer, he seems ready and up to the task of defending Manchester United's title.

4. Phil Jones/Chris Smalling

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    With Rio Ferdinand looking more and more a shadow of his former self, it only makes sense that his game time will begin to dwindle over this up and coming season.

    The injury bug has found a nice vessel in Ferdinand and appears to be in no rush to rid him of his pain.

    Chris Smalling had a good run of games last season, playing in perfect tune while Rio was absent.

    This season, both Smalling and Jones will be fighting for time, which will benefit United's back line tremendously.

    Two of the best young defensive prospects, battling for a coveted spot next to the best center back in world football is a rather tantalizing thought.

    Whichever player does get time, he will have to prove himself from the get go.  Both of these players will succeed; it is just a matter of time before we can tell which player will succeed first.

3. Ashley Young

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    What Manchester United have missed most from the Ronaldo era is his free kick ability. 

    From dead ball scenarios in front of goal, Manchester United has not been able to capitalize to the extent that they should have.

    Wayne Rooney showed some ability from dead ball plays, but still United lacked quality from 18 yards and out.

    Ashley Young may not be faster than Antonio Valencia, or as gifted with the ball at his feet as Nani, but he is a great dead ball specialist.

    Ashley Young will be the player that gives United fans that feeling they got when Ronaldo lined up for a free kick—that thought of seeing the ball fly into the top corner of the net when United are tied 0-0 in stoppage time.

2. David De Gea

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    David De Gea could be an expensive flop or he could be United's No. 1 for the next 20 years.  It really all depends on how well he performs this season.

    A lot is riding on the the young Spaniard, and at 20 years of age, he has been brought in to replace a legend.

    The goalkeeper position typically does not receive much attention, but as teams like Arsenal have shown, it does not matter how skilled the attackers are if the goalkeeper can't catch a flu, let alone catch a ball.

    If De Gea flops, he may be the sole individual responsible for derailing United's quest for title No. 20.  If he proves a success, United will most likely prosper yet again.

    It is difficult to judge him based on his summer friendlies, but Sir Alex must think De Gea is worth the risk if he was brought in to be United's No. 1.

1. Wayne Rooney

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    Us fans have hopefully put "Elbow Gate" "Swear Gate" and "I Want More Money Gate" behind us.  Now we are ready for Wayne Rooney to repay us for our patience and willingness to stick by our talisman.

    Wayne's first summer break from international duty since he was a young lad should prove fruitful for supporters—and hopefully deadly for opponents.

    With the on-field and off-field antics hopefully behind us, and the injuries a thing of the past, Manchester United fans will be hoping this season Rooney proves just how valuable to the team he really is. 

    Rooney will have to prove all the doubters—as well as remind the haters—just why he is mentioned alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the best players in the world.

    If Rooney's form at the end of last season and throughout this summer tour has taught us anything, it is that the appetite for Rooney to right the wrongs is prevalent now more than ever.