As the season draws ever-closer, we here at the Center Circle are going to start looking at what each of the top teams in the EPL are looking at this season. For last season’s champions, it may be the first time that nearly everyone has ruled them out of being one of the top contenders for this season’s title. It also will be the defining moment for David Moyes and might push him into the top echelon of world coaching.
First off, toss out the preseason. Anyone that believes that you can get anything out of those preseason fixtures except for some fringe player experience is kidding themselves.
With United’s defense, Moyes is going to be making an incredibly difficult decision. Should he move towards the youth of United and start giving Evans, Jones, and Smalling time in the middle of the back four? Or, should he continue to drain the last drops out of Ferdinand and Vidic? The right idea would be a great mix as you ease some of the younger players in and possibly making Ferdinand a last option. The English international has lost a definite step and his time is nearing its end. I think Evra still has some time in the United 11 and Rafael continues to grow as the starting right back.
In the midfield, this will definitely be the last year for Anderson to solidify his spot. Carrick and Fletcher will still be the fulcrum and stop-gap between defense and attack with Cleverley still looking to be a growing member of United. Valencia may find himself used out wide in the midfield with Ashley Young providing the width out on the other side.
No matter where Kagawa is placed on the pitch, I expect him to be the main creative force in the attack this season. Rooney may factor in late in the season if he stays, but the first few months will probably see him being used as January transfer fodder. United will also hope that RVP will still be scoring at will and that he does not get injured during this season. Chicharito and Welbeck will still be looking to break through and become more than just a super-sub, with both of them probably hoping that RVP does snag a small injury. (Plus, Zaha in the EPL is going to be fun!)
The biggest story will be whether David Moyes succeeds or fails. Personally, I do not think that he will make the jump successfully. It is a big change from Everton here to United and the standards are much higher. If he keeps United in the top two up until December, then he will have a chance. However, if Moyes has United below the top two at Christmas, then I expect the pressure to grow and for him to start worrying about whether he can even make the top four.
Predicted best case scenario: United finish 3rd because Rooney helps them make a late push.
Predicted worst case scenario: United finish 5th and Moyes suffers through the harshest summer ever. Also, Rooney gets sold in January (if he survives this summer).