Date:Friday August 14 2009
So the big kick-off is looming and the team is in acceptable shape. But how acceptable it is, actually? We'll have a look at it, starting with the defence.
The defence, which is easily the most settled part of the team, even though there are question marks over the right-back and the goalkeeper positions. But the concerns are far from serious, if I'm honest.
In goal, Edwin van der Sar is getting older but he's still top-class and equal to anyone in the league, even to Petr Cech who was never the same after the incident at Reading. Much was made of Ben Foster's shaky showing at the Community Shield but we all know he's got the talent while Tomasz Kuszczak is a reliable understudy, even though I wouldn't like him in goal for a prolonged period of time.
At right-back, we have John O'Shea, Wes Brown, Gary Neville and Rafael da Silva. That's a lot, isn't it? Well, yes, but still it's a position of concern. O'Shea is rather limited, lacks pace and offers very little in attack. Brown is injury-prone, Neville's past it while Rafael has huge potential but he has a lot to learn about defending. I guess Brown will be the first choice if he remains fit.
Centre-back? The strongest part of the team is the Vidic-Ferdinand pairing. Jonny Evans is a brilliant backup, a future first choice - we have great hopes for him. Brown and O'Shea can both provide cover for this position and there is young Craig Cathcart as well even though he's likely to be loaned out again.
At left-back, Evra is brilliant, still in his prime. But we've got little cover for him: either O'Shea's got to do it, which is not the best solution - in addition to his limitations listed above, he's also right-footed which is not the best for a left-back. Fabio da Silva is the same as his brother: huge prospect but with plenty to learn. Oh, and it would be good if he could complete a competitive game without getting injured, something he hasn't quite managed yet.
As I said, all in all we are quite well off in terms of the defence. This was the strongest part of the team last season, they gave a stability which was the real bedrock of our third consecutive title. We can confidently expect more of the same this season.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
Date:Friday August 14 2009
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