Posted by: Pete Robertson | August 15, 2011

It’s United, But Not As You Know It

Ryan Giggs. Michael Carrick.  Patrice Evra. Paul Scholes. Gary Neville. Darren Fletcher. Edwin Van Der Sar. All household names in last seasons Championship winning Manchester United side, and yet none of them feature in United’s Premier League curtain raiser against West Brom on Sunday.

Whether injured, rested or retired, the side that manager Sir Alex Fergsuon played was very different to that which we are used to seeing, with several names who have either been new signings, spent previous seasons away on loan, or have been bubbling just below the first team and just now are getting their chance.

The likes of Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverly must have questioned how much of a future they had at United, having spent last season on loan at Sunderland and Wigan respectively. However, after impressing away from United, Ferguson seems keen to give these players a chance in the first team, and may even see Cleverly as a long-term replacement for the now retired Paul Scholes.

And it’s the same story when you look at United’s defence. Of the players that finished the game (admittedly after key players Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand left the field injured), all four of them would expect to be further down the pecking order, yet it appears that Ferguson has plans to use all his players in major roles throughout the season. His young defence of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Johnny Evans and Fabio may not be the most household of names to those who don’t follow the fortunes of the Red Devils, but at United they are seen very much as the future of the club.

Add to them the young goalkeeper David De Gea who did make a few mistakes in the game and looked uncertain at times, but will be given time and allowed to grow into the role as United’s number 1.

But it was new boy Ashley Young (left) who stole the show from all these fresh United talents. The ex Aston Villa winger looked at home on United’s left wing, regularly causing all manner of problems to the West Brom defence, and was made Man of the Match for his display. Over the coming weeks, the battle between himself and Man United legend Ryan Giggs for a starting role will be great to watch, and both will have to be at their very best to show the manager why they should be in the side.

Despite the change of personnel on the pitch however, there was one thing about Sunday’s performance that certainly has not changed at United. The drive of all the players to win every game is clear, and like many previous United teams, this one scored the winning goal inside the last 10 minutes of the match. This competitiveness what has made the transition of players seem so easy, with no apparent upheaval of the team despite the sheer number of new or inexperienced faces.

You may not recognise all the names and faces, but United remain clear favorites for the title, even at such an early stage in the season, despite the relative calm in terms of team upheaval at closest rivals Chelsea.

They may not be the regular household names of years gone by, but this group of players is very much a Man United side, driven by a hunger for success, and desperate to prove that they are every part the same Premier League winning side that we’re used to. And you’d struggle to bet against them to do just that…

How do you see Manchester United faring this season? Will the new players gel into the side? Have they made the right signings or should they have gone for someone else? Please comment below and let me know your views…


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