manutdtop4

Why Manchester United will not finish in the top four next season…

I’m going out on a limb here. This might, in hindsight, be seen as the delusional ramblings of a madman. I am, increasingly, finding my brain shouting at me that something might be up with the top four in the Premier League. There’s been a palpable shift in teams in the last few years, ever since Liverpool’s exit from the true ‘big four’. That Liverpool side that fell had become increasingly weakened, or, if not weakened, found itself being left behind by the rest of the sides that make up the Champions League contenders in this country, due to a lack of investment from the infamous Gillett and Hicks.

We’re doing a Lost style flashback here, helicopter noises and a zoom in on someone’s eyes. It’s the end of the season and Chelsea have just won the Champions League. Admittedly, not that much of a flashback. Eden Hazard is suddenly interested in signing for them. Manchester United are no longer truly in consideration for his signature. Chelsea, it seems, are going to spend. Somewhere on the A1, I come to the conclusion that Manchester City’s biggest challengers next season are going to be Chelsea. I’ve seen little to change my mind since. The potential arrival of Hulk threatens to turn a powerful front four into one that terrifies.

Then there are Arsenal, a team that always manage to qualify. Even this season, with extended periods of going without full backs, Arsenal pulled it off in the end. They impressed ultimately, and whilst they were reliant, to an extent, on Robin Van Persie, it felt as though the entire team was coming together by the end. In Alex Song, they have one of the most consistent players in the league, and arguably the best defensive midfielder. Theo Walcott, bemoaned, has proven his worth. Oxlade-Chamberlain has increasingly impressed. Jack Wilshere, out for an entire season, is set to return, and he has the potential to be the most talented English player of a decade. Even men like Tomas Rosicky have come to the fore, with Rosicky looking almost undroppable in the second half of the season, finally settling and showing the ability that brought about his signing in the first place. Even when one doesn’t factor in the arrivals of Podolski and Giroud, two great talents, both of whom have shown the ability to carry an entire team on their backs, Arsenal look unlikely to lack the talent necessary to finish in the top four. With these two strikers, the pressure will be removed somewhat from Van Persie, who, if he signs on, will find himself surrounded by the sort of talent he has long desired.

That is three teams I cannot see finishing outside of the top four, and possibly being the three that truly challenge for the title. Today, Spurs did what was rumoured of them, and appointed Andre Villas Boas.  This is entirely the best move Spurs could have made in this situation. Harry Redknapp assembled a quality but expensive squad. Considering the talent at their disposal, however, it is entirely reasonable to suggest Tottenham’s fourth place finish last season was an underachievement. Gareth Bale, probably the best left winger in the league. Rafael Van Der Vaart, a player with undoubted ability and flair. Luka Modric, one of the best center midfielders in the country, if not the world. Three players who, with the solid players around them, any other manager would manage to a sustained title challenge. Redknapp’s laissez-faire attitude to tactics cost him. People blame his eye on the England job, but is there really actually any evidence Redknapp knows what he’s doing? The only club he can be said to have overachieved at, relative to the club’s size, is Portsmouth, where he delivered an FA Cup. However, relative to his expenditure at the club, he did not actually achieve anything surprising. He certainly cannot be seen to have overachieved at Spurs, who consistently spent heavily under his tenure.

So a change was needed, and in Villas Boas, Tottenham probably have the polar opposite. A systems manager, Villas Boas will implement the ideas he sought to implement at Chelsea, but not be hampered by an aging squad set in their ways. Furthermore, his high defensive line, a key feature of his incredible defensive success at Porto, is far more achievable at a side where he is not obliged to involve a captain with a propensity to fall over when asked to run a distance further than 6 yards. Admittedly Ledley King isn’t exactly fit anymore, but he’s not held in a ridiculously high regard by Spurs fans that renders him undroppable even when his knee is hanging off or shattered into sixteen million individual tiny shards. Aside from this, Villas Boas’s best sides have an incredible attacking thrust as well. The players will be ruthlessly drilled and marshaled. With the egos of Chelsea missing, Tottenham will likely profit from the appointment of Villas Boas. They are my fourth pick for Champions League places next year.

Obviously it will likely not work out as clear as that. One may have a poor start, or collapse, or it may just simply not work out as I had thought. There are other teams who I can see filling in the gaps however. Newcastle are the closest to those four, with a lethal attacking force. With further astute signings (and word from the city is that Ashley is ready to back an already successful transfer pairing of Graham Carr and manager Alan Pardew), they will be, in cliche terms, there or thereabouts come May. Liverpool will become a threat once more this season. Rodgers has shown his ability to implement a system at Swansea, something Liverpool lacked under Dalglish. On paper, they have an excellent squad in places, and with further improvements, Liverpool should be a genuine threat to fourth spot this year. My wildcard entry into this battle are Everton. With a good start this season, they could be challengers, especially now that they have added a striker who can flourish alone up front, and is not encumbered by recurring injuries. If they can bring Pienaar back or replace him with a clever signing, they can replicate the sort of form that propelled them up the table and within touching distance of the Europa League. They are also helped by an ability to concentrate exclusively on domestic affairs.

To clarify, City will, in my view, not even come close to dropping out of the top four. There are therefore seven (or eight, if you include Everton) teams that will challenge properly for four spots. How can a team that finished second last year, on the cusp of the title, be in the lower rungs of these sides?

Liverpool finished second in 2008-09, with a points total that would have won the league most other years. Even then they were accused of being reliant on Gerrard and Torres. The following year they finished seventh. The only important sale was that of Xabi Alonso.

Last season, Manchester United finished second, seconds away from winning the title. They were reliant on Rooney, who had an excellent return of goals, and the returning Paul Scholes, who shored up a weak midfield. However, I’d argue that the success they had was reliant on old successes. One merely has to look at the Champions League. Other teams, unaware of how they are meant to approach games against Manchester United, knocked them out of what was, really a very weak group. Athletic Club (Bilbao) absolutely tore them to shreds in the Europa League, destroying their first team. Bilbao performed well in cups, reaching two finals, but finished tenth in the supposedly weak La Liga. They are well managed, but not the sort of team you’d usually expect to systematically dismantle the champions of England, who only lost by a reasonable margin due to the absolute heroics of David de Gea. Crystal Palace went to Old Trafford and beat them, leading twice against them. The woeful Blackburn beat them at Old Trafford, and should have beat them at Ewood Park given the flow of the game. They surrendered an eight point lead in the league, losing to Wigan, and drawing a game against Everton that they were truly unlucky not to lose. And then of course, there was the six-one loss against Manchester City. The only game in which Manchester United truly impressed was against Arsenal, and that was at a point in the season when Arsenal’s first team was like a loose confederation of toddlers who only had the use of one leg.

The reality of last season is that teams proved that if one goes to Old Trafford looking for a win, with an attacking bent, and a willingness to pressure, one will get a result. The aura has been lost. It should be shattered. There is nothing to be fearful of.

Yes, they have signed Kagawa. He’s a player of some quality, and has impressed in his time at Dortmund. Yet it is really not a clever signing. Kagawa is at his best playing off a front man, the same position that Rooney should occupy. Certainly to get the best out of both of them, Ferguson would have to play a vague diamond, which isn’t ideal in the modern game. It also doesn’t deal with the frailty in the center of Manchester United’s midfield. The supposed future heroes of this midfield, Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba have gone. The future at that club no longer promises success. One cannot see Manchester United spending further this summer, given the constraints at the club, where securing marketing deals seems more important than signing players. There are obvious weaknesses in several positions apart from the midfield. Both full back positions have frailties, with no clear first choice right back. The center of defence is, without Vidic, not strong, and Ferdinand is no longer the player he once was. Ferguson is cannot also no longer be seen to make no faulty decisions. He’s always been one to rotate unnecessarily, to his detriment (drafting his son in during crucial games in 1991/1992 can be seen as an early example of this).

To sum it all up, the combination of strength elsewhere and weakness at Manchester United are why I’m making this suggestion. I’ll be interested to see what the situation is in May. Now, can anyone get in contact with me to tell me where I can put a bet on?

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1) to hear more ludicrous predictions.

Images of marketing deals secured from the fabulous The State of the Game.

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9 thoughts on “Why Manchester United will not finish in the top four next season…

  1. LOL….., so much shit being spewed here. What team do you support? Because you’re obviously just a bitter ABU in disguise as a serious blogger. Find something else to do than spew out all these lies and/or idiotic statements.

  2. This is gonna be long….

    1. Liverpool coming back next season and doing well.
    2. You’re overrating Arsenal players.
    3. You’re overrating how Chelsea will do next season. Even though they have bought class players, they’re still stuck with a mediocre manager, who will certainly face problems with handling the egos lots of those players got.
    4. United being very reliant on Rooney.
    5. How many teams in the PL have better midfield than United iyp? United’s midfield surely need improvement, but claming it’s very weak is really ignorant.
    6. “Athletic Club (Bilbao) absolutely tore them to shreds in the Europa League, destroying their first team. Bilbao performed well in cups, reaching two finals, but finished tenth in the supposedly weak La Liga.”

    Yeah United sure were very motivated for europa league play….do you seriously think that they were? Chelsea finished 6th in PL. Look at how they did in Europe. Liverpool finished 5th in 2005 – how did they do it in europe that year, again? Real Madrid also finished 5th one time in La Liga, but won the CL same year. Comparison of how a team does it in the national league compared to how they do it continental, has proven time and time again to be a bad comparison.
    7. “Crystal Palace went to Old Trafford and beat them, leading twice against them.”
    In Mickey Mouse cup, against the reserve team…..
    8. “The woeful Blackburn beat them at Old Trafford, and should have beat them at Ewood Park given the flow of the game.”
    The match at Ewood Park was very even. It was the match at OLD TRAFFORD that United dominated and was very unlucky in.
    9. “and drawing a game against Everton that they were truly unlucky not to lose.”
    Huh? Who was the unlucky here, are you implying? Cause if you say it was Everton….lol
    10. “And then of course, there was the six-one loss against Manchester City.”
    United came back from a long trip to Romania, while City stayed in Manchester that whole week. United dominated the 1st half in that game, and was unlucky. Both the matches against City were Vidic-less, btw. While Kompany played both for City.
    11. “The only game in which Manchester United truly impressed was against Arsenal, and that was at a point in the season when Arsenal’s first team was like a loose confederation of toddlers who only had the use of one leg.”
    While same argument can not be used to defend many games United played this season?
    12. Your next paragraph is so dumb it’s not even worth commentating on.
    13. “Yes, they have signed Kagawa. He’s a player of some quality, and has impressed in his time at Dortmund. Yet it is really not a clever signing. Kagawa is at his best playing off a front man, the same position that Rooney should occupy. Certainly to get the best out of both of them, Ferguson would have to play a vague diamond, which isn’t ideal in the modern game. It also doesn’t deal with the frailty in the center of Manchester United’s midfield.”
    Rooney plays at the top, while Kagawa plays behind. Any reason for that not to work?
    14. “The supposed future heroes of this midfield, Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba have gone. The future at that club no longer promises success.”
    Again, so dumb, it’s not even worth commentating against.
    15. “One cannot see Manchester United spending further this summer, given the constraints at the club, where securing marketing deals seems more important than signing players.”

    http://www.talksport.co.uk/sports-news/football/premier-league/120703/fergie-man-united-want-bring-one-or-two-more-new-faces-175773

    Hmmm, Sir Alex Ferguson, or some random blogger on the internet? Who shall I trust?
    16. “Both full back positions have frailties, with no clear first choice right back. The center of defence is, without Vidic, not strong, and Ferdinand is no longer the player he once was.”
    What would you define as “strong”? Both Evans and Smalling has played very good in the centre for a long time now. The comment about Rio, is perhaps the only resonable thing written here, btw.
    17. “Ferguson is cannot also no longer be seen to make no faulty decisions. He’s always been one to rotate unnecessarily, to his detriment (drafting his son in during crucial games in 1991/1992 can be seen as an early example of this).”
    Could you list me some other managers that dosen’t make any faulty decisions? When you also take into consideration how many years he’s been in charge at United, then you must have to be some guru to never make any faulty desicions.

    As a final, i would like to ask. How many times have you thought this way about United before?

    • 1. Why can’t Liverpool do well? They’ve got a good maneger in, the squad is decent and the weaker elements such as Carroll seem on the verge of coming good.
      2. How am I overrating them?
      3. A mediocre manager who can see his own team’s weaknesses, rather than not accepting losses.
      4. I don’t entirely know what this means.
      5. Arsenal (Wilshere – Song – Arteta), Manchester City (Silva – Toure – De Jong – Nasri), Tottenham (Lennon – Modric – Van Der Vaart – Huddlestone – Bale), Chelsea (Meireles – Mata – Lampard), Newcastle is about the same (Ben Arfa – Cabaye – Tiote – Guitierrez), Swansea.
      6. This being the Man Utd who played the first team.
      7. Still lost to them with players judged to be good enough to warrant signing.
      8. Until Valencia got lucky with his goal at Ewood Park, you looked the lesser side.
      9. Everton were unlucky.
      10. You lost 6-1. It was a turning point in the season. Accept it.
      11. Which games were these? Also, Arsenal signed a handful of players to deal with this. Are you going to do the same?
      12. As is the entirety of your comment.
      13. Because I believe Rooney is better when not playing up top alone.
      14. Why? Pogba and Morrison were very highly rated until 6 months ago. Now they’re supposedly uncoordinated baboons.
      15. One or two? You need an entirely new center midfield, new defenders apart from possibly Evra, a striker to replace Owen or Berbatov possibly?
      16. Even though Ferguson complimented Evans late last season, I found it odd and unlinked to reality. Smalling had a forgettable season, but he is probably a solid player, in the future.
      17. Obviously everyone makes faulty decisions. However, isn’t it plausible that your team isn’t that strong, and Ferguson can’t keep pulling ‘magic’ out of the bag to deal with it all the time?

      • 1. When they’re unable to even get a player like Sigurdsson, then stuff is really not looking good. If they’re unable to achieve top 4 with Mascerano, Torres, and other decent players who have left them (2009/10 season), how are they gonna achieve top 4 with Henderson, Carroll (he won’t have a much better season btw), Downing, Adam, Spearing, etc?
        2. I’d say you do. Wenger is also known for not being the best manager tactically. Podolski is very overrated. Giroud might be good, but he certainly is no Van Persie (who’ll most likely leave.)
        3. Are you saying Ferugson can’t? What a joke. For your own sake I suggest that you don’t move on with this argument. That way you’ll not embarass yourself.
        4. That Rooney was not a player United was THAT reliant on. Barcelona, and Arsenal, are much better examples of a team very reliant on 1 player.
        5. Instead of arguing which midfield is better through player for player, let me just ask this question, how did United finish 20+ points above most of those with a supposedly weaker midfield?
        6. Hehe, didn’t have a counter argument to that one eh?
        7. It’s Mickey Mouse cup, United should have won that game regardless, but claming it’s crazy that United didn’t win that game, is pretty stupid, when teams like Middlesbrough, Blackburn, Birmingham, Liverpool have won that cup in recent years…
        8. Not really, mabye a bit, but certainly not by much.
        9. What a joke. To put it this way; At 4-2 Evra hit the inside of the post, if that ball was a few centimeters more to the right, then United would have definetly won the league. How was Everton unlucky? Idiot.
        10. No it wasn’t. The last turning point was the last 6 matches. There was many turning points before that.
        11. I’ve mentioned many of them. Blackburn at OT, City away, are the biggest ones.
        12. Of course you think so.
        13. in the 2009-10 season he was for the most part an alone striker. how many goals did he score that year again? 34.
        14. Morrison is. Pogba is still potential class. Morrison has wasted his career through being a huge chav. Pogba is a disrespectful prick, but he still has lots of potential. But seeing as that’s his personality, i’m glad he’s gone.
        15. New Midfielder, and a competitor to Evra at left back is all we need.

        (De Gea/Lindegaard/Amos)
        (Rafael/Smalling/Jones) (Rio/Evans/Smalling/Jones) (Vidic) (Evra/New player)
        (Carrick) (Scholes/Jones/Fletcher/Cleverley/New player)
        (Valencia/Nani) (Kagawa) (Nani/Young)
        (Rooney/Chica/Welbeck)
        A 4-2-3-1….Do you have any problems with this lineup? I didn’t mention Anderson, Park, Berba, Giggs, Bebe or Macheda because i want all those sold, except Giggs who I want to retire. Powell might get some games aswell in the Kagawa role.
        16. That’s probably because you didn’t see enough of him. Around christmas and from that point onwards he was excellent. Smalling was good enough in most of the games he played.
        17. See 15…our team is very good, but you will probably say otherwise about some of the players I mentioned?

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