Manchester United 2008/2009 season Preview

With an exciting new edition of the Premier League now upon us, looks at how each of the 20 clubs are shaping up. In this article, we feature back-to-back champions Manchester United...

When the leading lights of European club football come together to compare and contrast their achievements over the previous campaign, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side can revel in their hard fought position as the dominant team at both home and abroad.

The Red Devils were simply majestic last season, boasting the meanest defence and most devastating attack on their way to being crowned as Premier League champions for the second consecutive year, whilst also setting a new record in the Champions League for the most successive home wins on the road to a Moscow final that saw the club crowned champions of Europe for the third time in their history.

At the forefront of this charge to add to the overflowing Old Trafford trophy cabinet stood the figure of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese international struck an impressive 42 goals as he emerged as the world’s finest player.

However, the first months of the season were a world away from the glory days of May. A disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Reading was followed by a further draw away at Portsmouth, then the first of two defeats to local rivals Manchester City.

A 2-0 victory over Avram Grant’s Chelsea firmly reversed this trend, before the visit of Wigan Athletic at the start of October began a run of three consecutive 4-0 victories that ignited United’s season.

Strong results continued in the winter and spring before a final sprint to the finish line included victories at home to Arsenal and Liverpool, before a lacklustre defeat at Stamford Bridge saw Chelsea push the Red Devils all the way in the race for the league title.

However, a rain trodden pitch at the JJB Stadium was to provide a fitting finale, with goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs sealing a 2-0 win and the league trophy against Wigan Athletic, before a pulsating Champions League showdown with Chelsea saw Edwin Van Der Sar as the hero as United defeated the Blues on penalties to be crowned European champions.

This impressive trophy haul exists as an example of what the Manchester United side of 2007/08 was all about. Spellbinding attacking play carried out at break neck speed propelled the Red Devils up the goal scoring charts, with the triumvirate of Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney, and Cristiano Ronaldo proving too hot to handle for both the Premiership and the Champions League’s defences.

However, the defensive foundation for these offensive players was to perform just as impressively, with Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown gaining clean sheets both home and away to F.C. Barcelona and A.S. Roma in the Champions League, as well as conceding a paltry 22 goals in United’s successful Premier League campaign.

Summer Activity

Compared to the aggressive recruitment strategy that saw Owen Hargreaves, Anderson, and Nani signed up barely after the blowing of the final whistle on the 2006/07 campaign, this close season seems to have been about mere consolidation rather than glorious expansion.

Just as Cristiano Ronaldo stole the headlines for United during the season, this summer has seen the name of the Portuguese dominate the back pages of the world’s sporting press as the public flirtations of both himself and Real Madrid set the wheels in motions for this transfer window’s enduring saga.

With the Los Merengues hierarchy speaking on a daily basis about him, as well as the player himself giving incriminating sound bites to the media, it seemed almost inevitable that a parting of the ways was to occur.

However, just as the rumours began to grow of a supposed reticence for the player to return to Manchester, Ronaldo instead confirmed to the Portuguese press that he will in fact remain at Old Trafford for the coming season.

Whilst the retention of Ronaldo has provided a major boost to the hopes of continued success for Manchester United in 2008/09, Sir Alex Ferguson’s attempts to add a striker to his attack have proved much more abortive.

A £20 million bid for Dimitar Berbatov has made the club the target of the same type of ‘tapping up’ accusations that were thrown by the Red Devils at Real Madrid, with recent comments by Sir Alex Ferguson alluding to the difficulties he has faced in attaining the player he wants.

A further blow to the Manchester United set up has been dealt by the departure of Assistant Manager Carlos Queiroz to the Portuguese national team job, with the important task of appointing Sir Alex Ferguson’s deputy seeing figures such as Gus Poyet, Michael Laudrup, and Paco Ayestaran linked to the post.

Furthermore, a successful tour to Nigeria and South Africa has brought results on the pitch but has eroded Manchester United’s squad for the start of the season with the vital figures of Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick being way laid by a virus. When these two players are added to the losses of Nani through suspension, Anderson through the Olympics, and Louis Saha, Gary Neville, Ben Foster, Ji-Sung Park and Cristiano Ronaldo to injury for the visit of Newcastle United on the opening day of the season, United’s prospect of starting their campaign with any vigour seem remote.

However, barring the loss of reserve players Gerard Pique and Chris Eagles, United have managed to retain the same side that was so successful last season. With the transfer window still open for the best part of a month, it does still seem likely that a new face or two can be added which will be bad news for the chasing pack sat firmly behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s double wining side.


For a team that has just won the Premier League and Champions League double it hasn’t been a surprise that the transfer activity emanating from Old Trafford has been minimal at best. The announcement from Cristiano Ronaldo that he will be staying for at least another season at the Red Devils does however draw a line under one of this summer’s most tedious transfer sagas and will allow Sir Alex Ferguson to plan ahead for the club’s opening fixtures.

These plans include a goalkeeping department that will be as strong as any in the league, with Dutch veteran Edwin Van Der Sar being pushed by a now fully fit Ben Foster, whilst Polish international Tomas Kuszczak also offers strong cover.

United still look ominously strong at the back, with the return of centre half Jonny Evans providing United with a more than able deputy for the ironclad pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand at the heart of the United defence. On the flanks, Patrice Evra will be deputised by Mikael Silvestre, whilst Wes Brown can expect to be put under pressure by the return from injury of club captain Gary Neville, plus the ‘sensational’ nature of Rafael Da Silva pre-season performances also adds another option to this department.

In midfield, Sir Alex Ferguson will be hoping that Owen Hargreaves can continue the good run of both form and fitness that saw the ex-Bayern Munich player really come to the fore at the end of last season, whilst the exciting talent of Anderson can only improve with the bonus of a year of Premier League experience behind him. However, the visible decline in the output of Paul Scholes and especially Ryan Giggs last season will be a worry for all involved with United as the cruel hands of time seem to have caught up with these once majestic performers.

However, the major area of concern for all Manchester United fans will be the lack of options in attack once the season commences. Cristiano Ronaldo will definitely be missing until October due to ankle surgery, Wayne Rooney’s participation in the opening game against Newcastle United is in serious doubt due to a mystery virus, and the protracted move for Dimitar Berbatov seems no closer to completion than it did over a fortnight ago.

The addition of the Bulgarian to the United ranks will add another bow to the United arsenal if it comes to fruition, with the champions lack of height up front often being the deciding factor on the few occasions when the Red Devils came unstuck last season.

These developments may act as obstacles to United’s early season hopes, but with a squad that is envied throughout the world, Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges can expect to be in the driving seat once again in the chase for both Premier League and European glory. Whilst the European Super Cup and World Club Championship could provide un-wanted distractions to this aim, it is certainly not beyond this United team to repeat the terrific feats of last season and add further to the already bountiful trophy haul of their legendary Scottish manager.

Coach: Sir Alex Ferguson

Stadium: Old Trafford, Manchester (76,212)

2007/08 Position: 1st

2007/08 Record: P-38 W-27 D-6 L-5 F-80 A-22 GD-58 Pts-87

Players In – Daniele Petrucci (AS Roma), Jonny Evans (Sunderland – loan return), Rafael Da Silva, Fabio Da Silva (both Fluminese-work permits granted), Manucho (loan return Panathanaikos-work permit pending)

Players Out – Gerard Pique (F.C. Barcelona), Chris Eagles (Burnley), Danny Simpson (Blackburn Rovers – Loan), Tom Heaton (Cardiff City – Loan), Fabian Brandy (Swansea City – Loan)

Possible Line Up: Van Der Sar, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Brown, Hargreaves, Carrick, Anderson, Ronaldo, Tevez or Berbatov, Rooney

Manchester United 2008/2009 season Preview Reviewed by admin Ucop on 9:40 AM Rating: 5

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