Hi, I am Darryl Craven, you may remember me from such hits as.......erm, no, no you wont. Anyway now that awkward opening is completed, a little about myself. I am a massive football fan. Not the type with the oval ball, the round ball version or as some of you know it, soccer. I promise that is the last time I make that joke, honest! I have been a Manchester United fan for as long as I have known football, it was one of those handed down from the parents things when Utd weren't particularly any good. They got a bit better though so that's ok.
The world of football is fickle and can change rapidly so since I first wrote this article just a week ago there have been many developments and changes already. I have edited best I can to reflect these so don't shoot me. Anyway I hope you enjoy the article, I have plenty more ideas for future columns.
Sir Fergie has gone, the era has ended, a new regime begins. So what does this mean for the race for the title this season?
All I have ever known is Sir Alex Ferguson as manager of my beloved United. I was 5 years old when my dad got me interested in football and as a United fan I followed suit. It was 1986 when Alex Ferguson began his reign and after a shaky start to his time at Old Trafford United became a juggernaut winning everything there was to win in his 27 years in charge. I won’t go on a diatribe or a career retrospective as this has been done many times since his retirement announcement in May of this year.
There is nothing left to say. Through gritted teeth even the most staunch anti-United fans have had to admit he was one of the greatest football managers of all time if not the best ever.
So what is next for United?
David Moyes began his Old Trafford career at the beginning of July with a little bit of a cloud over him. Many fans were not impressed by the appointment asking what he had done to be deserving of one of the biggest coaching roles in world football? He had never won a major piece of silverware whilst at Everton, what are his credentials?
Other fans pointed to the fact that whilst at Everton he managed to create a squad that played an attractive, attacking, fluid brand of football on very limited resources. Now he has access to big money and the brand name to attract a higher level of player will he use this wisely and to his and Manchester United’s advantage?
Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Cesc Fabregas are all high profile names being linked with a summer move to the Theatre of Dreams, whether any of them come off is another matter but this has been refreshing. Fergie would always hold his cards close to his chest when it came to big name transfers ever since the Ronaldinho fiasco in 2003.
United were in prime position to sign one of the world’s greatest players, sold David Beckham to Real Madrid to finance the deal, the player was making all the right noises about wanting to be the first Brazilian player to pull on the famous Red shirt, all looked good. Then Barcelona, out of the blue announced the signing of United’s number one and very public transfer target. As a fan I was furious. Still, we went and bought Cristiano Ronaldo a week later and that turned out pretty well.
Ferguson became very private from that moment on with his major transfer targets. Yes the news always leaked out when United were after a player but not from Sir Alex himself until the deal was nearly completed. It was refreshing to see Moyes sit at his press conference confirming United’s bids for Fabregas last week. Whether it will transpire is another matter! Does David Moyes have that presence, the name or the reputation to now pull in the biggest names?
On the flip side it is also all change at Manchester City and Chelsea who have also both appointed new managers that are making their transfer moves early this year.
City and Roberto Mancini parted ways just before the end of last season. Even I thought it was a little bit harsh after bringing success to the team constantly in their neighbours shadow. Mancini did a good job at City although his man management skills were a little shaky. Many public outbursts and bust ups with his players could only have undermined his authority in the dressing room. Tevez, Ballotelli, Hart and Nasri were some of the high profile names who were in the firing line and surely player and squad morale must have been affected.
In steps Manuel Pellegrini, so far we haven't really heard a word from him, yet City are the ones who are efficiently improving their squad this summer. Negredo, Fernandinho and Jovetic have arrived to boost City in attack.
At Chelsea we have seen the return of Jose Mourinho, a man who has the name and image to attract the biggest names, including Wayne Rooney, who seems to have fallen out of love with United after some very lacklustre displays at the back end of last season. I would welcome his departure to be honest. His attitude and passion seem to have diminished spectacularly over the past six months. Time to move on Mr Rooney.
Chelsea had their most successful time under Mourinho so it will be interesting to see how he shapes and sets out this current crop of players. There is a good base at Chelsea for Jose to start with, careful recruitment could make all the difference.
Spurs and Arsenal are making noises too with Tottenham securing Paulinho who from reports is an absolute beast of a midfielder. Arsenal on the other hand have been very vocal in their pursuit of Luis Suarez from Liverpool. The biggest threat to Spurs chances are keeping hold of Gareth Bale who is being publicly courted by Real Madrid with a mind blowing £105m bid on the table!
With a little over a month to go before the transfer window closes until January there is still plenty of opportunity for change which leads me back to my point. This could be interesting.
United are at the start of a new era whilst their biggest rivals are strengthening wisely. So what do each of the top teams need to push for the title this season?
Last Season: 1st
Positions to Strengthen: Midfield, Attack
United are in need of a central midfielder with flair to compliment the hard work of Michael Carrick. Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young were disappointing last season whilst Nani looks to be heading for the exit door after two seasons of disappointment. However Nani does offer a touch of genius that neither Valencia or Young posses. For every brilliant touch, dummy and dribble he will sky 3 crosses behind the goal and hot 5 long range shots that end up in row Z. Still, he does offer a genuine threat so I think it would be foolish for Moyes to show him the door. Striking options are also being reviewed if we believe what we read. Rooney looks to be on his way out and Javier Hernandez seems to have fallen down the pecking order and is being touted as a possible makeweight in a deal for Ronaldo, allegedly. Uniteds biggest strength is their depth of squad with many talented players on the bench being able to be called upon in event of injury or suspension. Since Real Madrid have just announced they have lodged a ridiculous £105m bid for Gareth Bale, the rumour mill has picked up pace in regards to the return of Mr Ronaldo. I would love to see him back at Utd, love it!!!
Significant Ins: None
Significant Outs: Paul Scholes
Possible Arrivals: Cesc Fabregas, Luca Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale.
Possible Exits: Anderson, Nani, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez
Last Season: 2nd
Positions to Strengthen: None
City have already recruited in the areas they required strengthening with the signings of two top class strikers in Negredo and Jovetic. Last seasons Yaya Toure was disappointing and a return to the previous seasons form would be a very welcoming sight for new City boss Manuel Pellegrini and their fans. With the arrival of Fernandinho central midfield is also looking strong and with the defensive line they have they should be the major contenders for the title. Tevez has gone to Juventus strangely, didn’t see that one coming but I think his attitude has been questioned on numerous occasions. Shame to see him leave England though.
Significant Ins: Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas, Stevan Jovetic
Significant Outs: Carlos Tevez , Maicon
Possible Arrivals: None on the Radar
Possible Exits: Gareth Barry, Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell
Last Season: 3nd
Positions to Strengthen: Defence, Strikers
John Terry is no longer the brick wall he used to be for Chelsea. Ashley Cole is starting to show a slight decline now also but still has a good couple of seasons left in him at the highest level. Lampard has just signed a one year contract but will more than likely play a lesser role for the upcoming season. Fernando Torres has been a huge disappointment, a shadow of his former Athletico Madrid and Liverpool days. Demba Ba although ok hasn’t really set the world alight since joining Chelsea in January. Wayne Rooney could be the answer to Chelsea's striking options. Through Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar they have an embarrassment of attacking midfield options who could be the perfect supply chain for Rooney who has seen his career at Utd played more as a Centre Forward rather than an a Striker. As an additional, since writing this column David Luiz has also been touted in the press as an interest for Barcelona, interesting. Luiz was one of Chelsea's best players last season so they really don't want to be losing someone so important at this stage of the summer.
Siginificant Ins: Andre Shurrle, Marco Van Ginkel, Mark Schwarzer
Significant Outs: Florent Malouda
Possible Arrivals: Wayne Rooney
Possible Exits: Fernando Torres, David Luiz
Last Season: 4th
Positions to Strengthen: Midfield, Defence, Strikers
Arsenal are a strange team to analyse. They play attractive attacking football but are found wanting when it comes to converting chances created. In Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain they have pace although the end product is often lacking. With time this could come good but do Arsenal have time. A striker to compliment Podolski would be ideal. The defence is a worry though. Mertesacker is an excellent defender IF he is in the right position to start with, if he isn’t then his lack of pace leaves him and the Arsenal goal very exposed. Injuries to Gibbs and Sagna showed a flaw in the depth of defending numbers over the last couple of seasons. Arsenal would be better concentrating on building a solid squad rather than squandering £40m on Luis Suarez or the also linked Wayne Rooney. The Gonzalo Huguain saga rolled on all summer without any real dividend and the Gunners lost their man to Napoli in the end. Arsenal fans will be hoping that Santi Cazorla isn’t lured to Athletico Madrid as has been reported recently.
Significant Ins: None
Significant Outs: Andrey Arshavin, Sebastian Squillaci, Andre Santos
Possible Arrivals: Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney,
Possible Exits: Santi Cazorla
Last Season: 5th
Positions to Strengthen: Strikers
Emmanuel Adebayor was a major disappointment for many Spurs fans last season. His glimpses of genius were far to scarce and most of his displays were lazy and cumbersome. Jermaine Defoe is a decent striker without really instilling any major fear into an opponent. What Spurs need is a top class striker and to keep hold of Gareth Bale if possible. However, selling Bale for the reported £105m that is being reported in the press this week Tottenham could buy another world class striker and have more than enough left to acquire an excellent midfield replacement for Bale. Paulinho is an excellent addition to an already excellent and energetic midfield. The defence is a solid unit with an excellent goalkeeper. Spurs really do have the basis to launch an excellent campaign next season. With two top drawer strikers they have the potential to break into the Champions League places they narrowly missed out on last year.
Significant Ins: Paulinho, Roberto Soldado
Significant Outs: William Gallas
Possible Arrivals: Gonzalo Higuain
Possible Exits: Gareth Bale
After looking through all of the moves so far and the potential targets being widely reported in the press, as a United fan it pains me to say this but it looks like City are going to be very difficult to stop this season. It is the quality they have brought in that is impressive. No squad players this close season as it was with last with each signing improving the position they have been brought in for. If and only if United do pull off one of the marquee signings fans are pining for then they may be in with a good chance of retaining their title.
My biggest worry is for Arsenal. It matters not either way this summer if Spurs do or don’t sell Bale I think they have a stronger starting line-up and squad than The Gunners. In my opinion Tottenham are a team on the up and Arsenal, unless they put in some serious cash for squad building are going to drop out of the Champions League places. They have the crux of a great team but injuries and suspensions will see the quality depleted significantly out on the field.
With a new chapter at United, the what looks to be excellent talent procurement at City, the return of Jose at Chelsea and the continued development at Spurs this could be a very interesting season.
Let me know what you think? Hit me up on twitter @CravoTJRSports and keep an eye out for future articles, thanks for looking!