With the transfer window closed and the rosters set—at least until December—it’s time for pundits around the world to take a look at their favorite clubs and engage in an activity that happens in bars, pubs, and cafes all over the world: making bold predictions.
Here are seven predictions for Manchester United's 2011-2012 season.
Ryan Giggs made his league debut on March 2, 1991. Since then, he has just gone from strength to strength.
He began as a lightning bolt on the wing, all blinding speed and brilliant dribbling, evolving into a world-beater blessed with a lethal left foot which he used for pinpoint crossing and blistering shots.
In the twilight of his career he reinvented himself yet again, utilizing his crafty footballing to control United's midfield.
In 20 years, the last of "Fergie's Fledgelings" has become a legend in the game, winning award after award and even getting an OBE. He remains effective even now, but I believe that this is the last season he has left in the tank.
He has always been a club-first kind of player, and I think he's stayed this long because the team needed him. However, this year, with Ashley Young, Nani and Antonio Valencia all proving viable options on the wings, it's safe to say he'll be comfortably leaving United in good hands.
A couple of years ago, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic formed the best defensive pairing on the planet. They complemented each other perfectly, with Ferdinand providing the silky touch and Vidic the steely leadership.
The pair has lost effectiveness of late, although they are still top-drawer. Vidic is as good as ever, but the drop-off in quality can be attributed to Ferdinand.
Injuries have slowed him down somewhat which is unfortunate, but it becomes apparent when watching him on the field that he can't turn quite as quickly as he could, nor is he fast enough to deal with the speedier strikers of the game.
Fortunately, United has an effective replacement, and he's ready now.
Phil Jones is more a Vidic than a Ferdinand. He is a tough-tackling leader, but he still possesses many of the qualities that Ferdinand brought to the table. As seen in the Arsenal game, he's comfortable with the ball at his feet, can bring it up right through the middle, has good vision and can easily pick out a teammate.
He's confident, he's healthy, he's hungry and he's a future potential captain for both club and country.
With his performances against Tottenham and Arsenal, Danny Welbeck has certainly opened people's eyes, leading many to proclaim him The Next Big Thing.
Not so fast.
Welbeck is good, and he's certainly got a bright future ahead of him, but his goals have masked the fact that, on the basis of his Tottenham game, his game currently hinges on confidence.
For the first 60 minutes, before his goal, he was a fairly standard player. It was only after scoring that he turned on the flair and showed his skill. Players like this tend to run hot and cold.
Chicharito is a born predator. His goal ratio alone should tell you that. And unlike Welbeck, it seems like his confidence never runs out and his hunger never satiates. He's always looking for the ball, always looking to score, and draws defenders towards him and away from Wayne Rooney.
In that sense, he's a lot like Ruud van Nistelrooy, and that's not a bad thing to be.
Lindegaard is expected to play a big role in the Carling Cup and FA Cup while serving as an understudy to David De Gea, much like the role Tomasz Kuszczak filled the past few seasons.
But unlike Kuszczak, expect Lindegaard to play more often in the league.
A strong keeper with good reflexes and distribution, Lindegaard will be called upon as De Gea goes through his season-long learning process, particularly against the more physical teams.
David De Gea has had a few howlers, that's for sure, but he's also shown the qualities that made teams all over the world want to sign him.
He's a good shot-stopper, for one, as seen when he made the double-save against Arsenal. He's also very comfortable with the ball at his feet, like Van Der Sar, and that works well with United's attacking philosophy. He's a good distributor of the ball, as well.
Remember that he's only 20 years old and is in his first year on a new team. That accounts for much of the difficulty he's had.
His footwork, his presence in the box, and his positioning should get better as he fills out physically and gets to know the league and his team even more.
Can we accept this as inevitable and move on? No?
Wayne Rooney is back to his best. In fact—new hair and all—I'd say he's better than ever. Leaner, fitter, but just as powerful, the past three weeks have shown him capable of bulldozing through defenses, and he's shown marked improvement in his link-up play as well.
Also, he's surrounded now by excellent providers, from Ashley Young to Nani to a rejuvenated Anderson. Assists can come from all over the place.
Also consider that his set pieces have become almost Beckham-like, which should pad his goal tally significantly.
Expect another parade, boys.
After the retirements of Gar Neville, Paul Scholes and Edwin Van Der Sar, Manchester United has reloaded, leading to a resurgence of youth and belief.
Unfortunately, I think they will only have the depth to win one other trophy in the year, and it won't be the Champions League.
More likely, expect to see them falter in the Carling Cup but score a double by capturing the FA Cup.
So there you have it: seven things that may or may not happen over the course of the coming season.
It's fun to think about these things, but the best thing about football is that anything can happen.
Will United beat Barcelona? Will De Gea flounder completely? Will the noisy neighbors pip us to the title?
Whether I got my predictions right or not, it's going to be a thrilling ride.