So after the opening weekend of English football it seems clear that it’s going to be the usual story, with the big four out in front and the rest playing amongst themselves for lesser European places and relegation safety,
Just as last season United are again going to play catch up, having drawn their opening game, as they did against Reading last year, with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool all winning. After what happened last season United won’t mind if this season follows a similar pattern. What will perturb them though is that this seasons fixture list has them playing almost all the top teams away from home before Christmas. With a harder fixture list, especially considering they play away after every Champions League fixture, they won’t want to be playing catch up from to far behind.
A 1-1 draw at home against Newcastle was not the best start for United, but considering the team that was available to them, before and during the game, they won’t be beating themselves too hard. Last year they managed two draws and a loss in their opening three games and they will be hoping that this season they start a lot quicker after this weekend, and that rather then this being a slow start it is a small blip in a much bigger picture.
A look at the United bench yesterday was evident that they will get much stronger when all their players are available. On the bench yesterday Neville, O’Sheaand Kuszczak were joined by young players Evans, Rafael and Possebon, while Campbell made his first league start for United. Injuries to Carrick, in the first half, and Giggs in the second, weakened United even more. Possebon and Rafael both came on to make their debuts.
In the coming weeks Nani will be back from suspension, Tevez will return soon, Park is back in training, Anderson will be back next week from the Olympics and Ronaldo will return late September/early October. Until then United will have to make do with what they have.
As the only team, along with Everton, who have not spent a cent yet on first team recruits, United have had to make do with the squad that got them through last seasons. Considering they won the League and Champions League, that’s not the worst handicap to have. But Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are all stronger then they were last year, in terms of playing staff, and United have a fair few players missing.
Rooney is working his way back to fitness and needs someone with experience next to him. Campbell showed enough to suggest that he will play a part this season, and Tevez will be back next week, but United still need a new face to add to the squad. It’s more than likely that Berbatov will be that new face soon, and Rooney no doubt will welcome the added help.
Both Possebon and Rafeal looked composed and skillful and even when the full United squad is available they could see some playing time in the coming league season. This could be the first time in a few seasons that someone from the youth or reserves makes an impression on the first team, with only really O’Shea and Fletcher coming through in the last five or six seasons. Pique and Rossi did make a mark but left before they broke through on a consistent basis.
All in all while the result was a brief setback there won’t be any alarm bells going around Old Trafford. However now more than ever slow starts will cost more than they ever have. United will be hoping they they are only playing catch up for the briefest possible period.