Cynical Manchester United bloggers have been out of work lately. There's just nothing to write about!
United are younger and better. My old nemesis Rooney now has more hair than I do and is out of his mind in form. New goalie: 20 years old, athletic, good-looking and has a cool name and facial hair. They lost three defenders but gained two young, more athletic, more enterprising Englishmen in the role.
The Champions have started 2011 five wins on the trot domestically; the only blemish an away draw in Europe. It's probably too late to talk about the particular matches, but there are several things I've unpacked along the way without yet putting them to pen.
It's strange, but without Cleverly and without Sneijder, the center of United's midfield is still the weakest part of the team.
Having Cleverly in the middle over the first was great. Having Carrick in contention now is not. Ferguson opted for Fletcher and Anderson against Chelsea, so hopefully that trend continues.
Carrick relies on people around him to mask his inefficiencies. He plays forward too little. He has the passing skill to be incisive but is let down by his own timid character. If United need him over the course of several games, then that's when they'll drop points.
Anderson will ultimately lose some form, too. He hasn't been as good as many of his teammates thus far. He is still sloppy at times but has enough of an engine and drive to demand respect in the middle—for now. When his form inevitably dips, whether Carrick replaces him or not, United's might follow. Giggs should prove a capable alternate in the middle throughout the year.
In defense, United are totally squared away. I still don't know whether Phil Jones is playing right-back or center. The 19-year-old's penetrating runs are completely serendipitous, extra fruit from a sapling tree. Likewise, Chris Smalling has also been far beyond reproach for a youngster at United this term.
Even Jonny Evans, who endured a terrible last season, has shown passing improvement and better sense in Vidic's absence—though he was culpable for Torres' goal Sunday.
Patrice Evra was United's man of the match against Benfica, I felt, and continued a top-class vein this term that was absent for much of last season. Just another United player playing in top gear to start the year.
Painstakingly, the litany of awesomeness continues on the wings. Young's two-footedness will appear every time I mention him. The ability to shift in either direction arbitrarily is the most lacking fundamental amongst professional ballers. Not with Young, who is namesake, and already a fixture with the national team.
The 26-year-old's ambidexterity opens up in-form Nani on his better side, giving United more width lacking since Giggs became less a left-winger and more a playmaker over the past several seasons. (Why'd we sell Tosic! -Ed)
Young is probably the most important player now in United's attack. He even tracks back. Valencia waits on the bench—suitable and serviceable in his own right.
It makes me sick!
Up front, my often scapegoat, Wayne Rooney, who I lampooned last year and in year's prior, is playing outstandingly.
Though my critiques are not now disproven. In reality, they are justified. People who thought he was in form, at any time, then, were wrong; he is now balls-out in-form.
Confidence, surely stemmed from his hair transplant (I'm jealous), now shows in his split-decision-making, his turns, the use of his left foot, his engine and his finishing.
Add Cleverely and Young as variables not present last season and you've finally now got the striker he was always wrongly purported to be.
Historically inconsistent, it'll be interesting to see how long this lasts—and not just for Rooney.
In closing, as football globalizes and so many of United's competitors field expensive, multi-national sides, having young Englishmen like Jones, Smalling and Young enter an already largely-British side goes a long way for core fans.
It continues the tradition of the club which, like other old and older-school English teams, consisted mostly of British players over the last century.
It's not wrong for many pundits and fans to already be looking forward to another epic meeting with Barcelona. United's defense is arguably the best in the world, layered with depth. In attack they field four dangerous and very different strikers.
Sir Alex Ferguson is the master of puppets at Old Trafford. He's doing it again and doing it right—winning with kids and the whole bit.
Hell, it's almost enough to cheer me up.
Now, when's Macheda playing next? I need some ammunition!