Breakdown, Preview and Predictions for Manchester United's 2012-13 Season

Ben Chodos@bchodosCorrespondent IIAugust 16, 2012

Breakdown, Preview and Predictions for Manchester United's 2012-13 Season

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    Manchester United had a disappointing season by their standards last season, and the team has made important moves to ensure that this does not happen again.

    The Red Devils had a late lead in points over Manchester City but failed to protect it and ended up conceding the title to their archrivals. This reopened wounds from earlier in the season when the team failed to advance past the group stage in Champions League.

    Sir Alex Ferguson had been relatively quiet in the transfer market before making a huge splash to add Robin van Persie. The striker will play an important part in the team's quest to regain the title, and the other necessary components for United to win league will be discussed as I preview their upcoming campaign.

    Here is everything you need to know about Manchester United's 2012-13 season. 

Transfers In, Transfers out

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    Transfers In Transfers Out
    Shinji Kagawa Park Ji-Sung
    Nick Powell Richie De Laet
    Robin van Persie Matty James
      Paul Pogba
      Tomasz Kuszczak
      Michael Owen
      Fabio (Loan)
      Ben Amos (Loan)

    Key Additions

    Robin van Persie

    This £24 million deal was the biggest signing of the summer by any Premier League team, and van Persie could potentially make Manchester United's attack unstoppable.

    The Dutchman scored 30 goals in league matches, while Wayne Rooney notched 27. These two players combined for more goals this past season than all but five Premiership teams. 

    Shinji Kagawa

    United looked strong with even when Kagawa was the marquee signing of the summer. The team lacked a creative spark in the midfield, and providing that is the Japanese midfielder's specialty.

    The 23-year-old helped Borussia Dortmund win the Bundesliga title by scoring 13 goals and recording eight assists. He is a dangerous player when sitting behind the strikers, and he projects to be a productive player at Old Trafford for many years. 

    Key Departures

    Park Ji-Sung

    The popular South Korean midfielder was not a first-choice player during much of his time at United, but he still managed to come through in the most important matches. This endeared him to fans, and Sir Alex Ferguson often put him on the pitch during the biggest contests. 

    He appeared in 17 league games last season and managed just two goals and one assist. He had a successful stint with the Red Devils and now he will be able get on the field regularly for Queens Park Rangers.

    Paul Pogba

    The 19-year-old has only made extremely brief appearances for the first team, but he was one of the brightest stars in United's youth academy. 

    There has been a disturbing pattern of the team's starlets leaving for other clubs this season, with Ravel Morrison and Pogba already gone, and Ezekiel Fryers seemingly set to follow these players out of Old Trafford. 

Biggest Matches and Full Schedule

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    The full Manchester United schedule can be found via the team's website. Here are the must-see matches.

    At Manchester City, Saturday, December 8

    When the two best teams in the league are archrivals, their matches are certain to be wonderfully entertaining. Both groups of supporters will age a few years in these matches as pride and Premier League supremacy will be on the line.

    In the first league meeting between these two teams a season ago, Manchester City embarrassed United with a 6-1 thrashing. This was a shocking defeat, and the Red Devils cannot let any of the team's matches against City get out of hand this season.

    These contests will be heavyweight slugfests, and every moment will be thrilling. 

    Vs. Manchester City, Saturday, April 6

    This matchup is certain to produce more than just one exciting match. The two teams met four times last season, with United winning both non-league fixtures and City taking both EPL contests.

    The second league matchup was crucial for both sides, and when the chips were down, City emerged with a 1-0 victory. United did not take the advantage in the most important meetings and ended up losing the title.

    If the Red Devils hope to recapture the league championship, they must perform well in this late-season match against City.  

    At Arsenal, Saturday, April 27

    This will be Robin van Persie's return to Emirates Stadium and it will be an important outing for both the striker and his new team.

    It will be emotional for the Dutchman and he likely will not be received kindly by the Arsenal supporters, but United must get points in this match. 

    The team will likely be in the hunt for the another title and the next fixture is against Chelsea. With just three matches remaining after facing Arsenal, points will be at a premium count and they will not come easily. 

Key Players

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    Wayne Rooney

    Rooney is one of the top players in the world and he will be Manchester United's most important player this season. 

    He had 27 goals and four assists in 34 Premier League appearances this past season. He is a lethal finisher and a remarkably accurate passer who can attack from multiple positions.

    Rooney's skill and dogged determination will be vital for United and he must continue to play at a world-class level for the team to succeed in England and Europe. 

    Robin van Persie

    The manner in which van Persie adjusts to his role with United will be the dominant storyline early in the season. While it seems like he will be an instant success, there are reasons to doubt his ability to live up to expectations. 

    Firstly, he is 29 years old and has a checkered past with injuries. It is all too likely that he misses time this season. He also was the focal point of Arsenal's attack last season, whereas he will have to share that responsibility with Rooney, among other players.

    But there is also the possibility that both he and Rooney score 20 or more goals in league matches and form one of the most dangerous attacking partnerships in club football. If this happens, United are in for an excellent year. 

    Nemanja Vidic

    Vidic is one the finest center-backs in football, and the Red Devils sorely missed his presence when he missed much of the season with a major knee injury

    Jonny Evans performed admirably in Vidic's absence, but the 30-year-old Serbian is a different class of player than his understudy. Vidic is excellent in the air in addition to being a rock-solid defender and an extremely disciplined player.

    He is foundation of the team's defense, and his return will be a significant boost to United. 

Strengths

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    Depth at Striker

    Sir Alex Ferguson has an incredible amount of talent up front this season.

    Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are the first-choice players and they are the two best strikers in the Premier League. This is an incredible luxury for a manager to have.

    Behind these two superstars, Ferguson has Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck. Both players are incredibly talented and more than serviceable as backups. Hernandez scored 10 goals last season while Welbeck struck nine times.

    With this much skill at the top of the attack, United will be a threat to run up the score in any match. 

    Attacking From the Wings

    All that talent at striker will not go to waste as United are loaded with quality wing players as well. 

    Antonio Valencia is an incredibly talented crosser and an unselfish player. He led the team in assists with 13 and that number could go up as he now has van Persie and Rooney as targets. The prospect of the Ecuadorian being able to pick out those two strikers is truly exciting.

    Luis Nani also proved to be an effective setup man this past season and recorded 10 assists. Ashley Young was another wing player who provided excellent service and notched seven assists. 

    All three of these players have pace, skill and vision. With their ability to create chances for other players, the United attack should be frighteningly potent this season. 

Weaknesses

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    Center-Midfield Play

    The lack of depth in the center of the pitch was worrisome enough in the early part of the season that Sir Alex Ferguson was forced to bring Paul Scholes back out of retirement. Fortunately, the 37-year-old was every bit the player he was before taking half of last season off, but the team still is not incredibly strong in the middle. 

    Scholes played as a deep-lying midfielder this past season, and he will be joined by Michael Carrick in that role. Darren Fletcher's health will likely limit his time this season, although he was able to make an appearance in a recent exhibition game. This group does not have a dominant ball-winner and lacks depth. 

    Ryan Giggs, Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Shinji Kagawa will shoulder the responsibility for playing in a more advanced position. Giggs' age is a concern while Cleverley is young, inexperienced and struggled with injuries last season. Anderson has never lived up to expectations at Old Trafford and Kagawa looks promising, but as a new player, his future is still uncertain. 

    There are more questions than answers in the middle of the pitch for the Red Devils. The unit could certainly be strong this season, but an injury could leave the team's group of center midfielders awfully thin. 

    Outside Backs

    Patrice Evra's form dropped last season. He was once one of the top outside backs in the world, but he was not as impressive this past season. This led to rumors that United would chase after Everton's Leighton Baines, but it appears the team will stick with the Frenchman. 

    On the other side, Sir Alex Ferguson used Rafael, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling at times. 

    Rafael is talented but can sometimes be too erratic and inconsistent. Jones and Smalling are both inexperienced and converted center-backs.

    Jones was the most impressive of the trio, proving capable of going forward and playing solid in the back. He is likely to see the most time opposite Evra, but all of these players will be counted on to elevate their play this season. 

Prediction for 2012-13

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    Wins: 29

    Losses: 4

    Draws: 5

    Points: 92

    Place: 1st

    The additions Manchester United made this summer will give the team the small boost they need to take the title back from Manchester City. It will surely be another close race, but the Red Devils' talent up front will lead to the extra few points they need.

    In the Champions League, it would be hard to do worse than last season. The team will be certain to put on strong performances in the group play and will be tough to beat in the knockout stage. However, the team's slight deficiencies on defense and in the midfield will keep them from reaching the final.

    Sir Alex Ferguson is not a manager who tolerates second place. Last season was a failure by the standards he has set during his tenure, and he will have his players motivated to do better.

    With more talent and more on the line this season, United will be the Premier League champions once again. 

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