As a Man United fan, I’ve been compelled to (try and) write this article. I’m not an expert on football, (and it’s quite lengthy) but I know my fair share. I’ve seen stacks of rumours going around about who we may (or may not) sign now Moyes has taken over from Ferguson, and I thought it would be nice to try and get a picture of a potential Man United First Team XI (probably not for the coming season, but the seasons after that – who knows?) Moyes does have a six-year contract, after all. With Sir Alex reaching his well-deserved retirement and the new Scot taking the helm, we may see some big changes. We’ve already seen the loss of Mike Phelan and Eric Steele. Personally though, I feel new changes could potentially be a great thing – new manager, new fresh ideas. Moyes still has the backing of Sir Alex for the time being, now the younger Scot is in charge. I will go through the players selected (based on our current squad, and the names being bandied about in the press.) I’ve tried to be as realistic as possible, and am probably wrong with a lot of my selection, but what a United XI this would be…
GK – David De Gea
The Spaniard (signed from Atletico Madrid in 2011) was a revelation this season, adeptly replacing Edwin van der Sar, and was named in the Team of the Year for 2012/13. He had to fend off criticism while still adapting to the English game, and beat off competition from Manchester City’s Joe Hart and Chelsea’s Peter Cech, to be named as the stand-out keeper in the MOTD ‘Team of the Year’ (by Alan Shearer, at least). He is a more than capable bedrock for this Fantasy XI.
RB – Rafael Pereira da Silva
The young Brazilian has taken over Gary Neville’s old right-back slot with ease (and his No. 2 jersey) and has popped up with some noteworthy performances (including a memorable 25-yard strike against QPR, as well as creating an assist for Wayne Rooney in the 3-2 victory over Man City in the derby.) He has been praised (along with his brother, Fabio) for being able to ‘get straight back on with it whenever… knocked down’ by former Manchester United academy manager, Les Kershaw and The Times described the twins as “Brazil’s answer to the Neville brothers.”
CB – Nemanja Vidic
The captain of Manchester United, the Serbian epitomises the blood and thunder approach you would want from a leading centre-back. Signed in 2006 (the same time as Patrice Evra), they are two players who have been superb value for money, and Vidic is surely the more logical, long-term option over the slightly older (but still excellent) Rio Ferdinand. Vidic has been included in three consecutive (4 in total including 2010-11 season) PFA Team of the Year sides from 2007 to 2009.
I still have faith in Vidic as a centre back, but he has struggled with injuries over the last few seasons, and we won the title, despite conceding 43 goals (the worst defensive record in the top four.) With Rio on the wrong side of 30, I think Moyes may be looking at Jones, Evans and Smalling as potential starters (in my opinion.)
CB – Phil Jones
Signed from Blackburn in 2011, for £16.5m, the 21-year-old England defender is a promising prospect for club and country, and has represented them at various levels. Extremely versatile (can play centre back/defensive midfield/right back), it makes sense to go for youth, and Vidic and Jones make a formidable defensive partnership. Sir Bobby Charlton has said that Jones reminds him of the late, great Duncan Edwards, with his “power and build.”
LB – Leighton Baines
He has been linked with us since Sir Alex was in charge, and the 28-year-old Everton defender would be a more than suitable replacement for the slightly older, Patrice Evra. Also named in MOTD’s ‘Team of the Year’, he’s English (with five goals and five assists from defence), and having worked under David Moyes, this is one Everton player who could potentially follow his former manager across the M62 to Manchester. With Wayne Bridge having retired from international duty, Baines looks to be the main rival to Ashley Cole for England’s 2014 World Cup squad.
RM – Tom Cleverley
Cleverley is still only 23, and is one of several promising, young English stars that Manchester United is currently providing the national side. Cleverley is seen by Sir Alex as a potential home-grown replacement for Paul Scholes, and netted a memorable goal against Newcastle in October 2012. While playing against San Marino in a 2014 World Cup qualifier, he made 165 touches during the game (the highest ever recorded for an England player.) He also made 2 assists in the same game with England winning 5-0.
CM – Michael Carrick
Also signed in 2006 from Spurs, Carrick was crowned Manchester United’s Player’s Player of the Year and was an integral part of the team’s 20th title success. Distinctive features of his play include his inventive distribution of the ball along with his passing and crossing abilities. He netted in the 2008 Champions League final against Chelsea, to secure the European Double. He still sticks in my mind for his two goals against AS Roma in April 2007. Many thanks to Tottenham for his services. Speaking of Tottenham…
LM – Gareth Bale
We’re not going to sign him this season, are we? As a fellow Welshman, I am honoured this man is representing my country in the Barclays Premier League. One of the most exciting footballers of his generation and winner of the PFA Young Player of the Year, the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and the FWA Footballer of the Year awards, Bale’s scintillating form has attracted the attention of Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane, and him on the left-wing and Ronaldo on the right – well, there are no words. The one advantage is that I can remember an interview with Harry Redknapp (while he was still boss at Spurs) where he asked Bale where he went on holiday. Bale’s response? ‘Wales’. Perhaps he may prefer to remain on these shores. Whether that will be with Tottenham for the long-term? Who knows. We’ve been linked with Marouane Fellaini again, and I wouldn’t mind if he arrived during the summer.
AM – Cesc Fabregas
Now this is a signing to whet the appetite. The former Arsenal man’s name has come up in the press again recently, and would be the marquee signing of the Moyes’ reign. Him linking up with fellow ex-Gunner Van Persie could put a big dent in Man City’s hopes of reclaiming the title. The little genius was a stellar part of Arsene Wenger’s cast while still at the Emirates, and 19 goals in 59 appearances for Barcelona means he is still providing good service. I would love to see him at Old Trafford.
SC – Robin van Persie
The last of the holy trinity (Bale, Fabregas and Van Persie), the Dutchman justified his move North, and is undoubtedly going to be the pinnacle of our attack for the 2013/14 season. It will be interesting to see how the 26-goal marksman (in the league only) carries on his scintillating form under new boss, Moyes. You can’t keep a player of this quality down, as he proved when he came back to fruition after a brief barren spell, and netted the hat-trick that clinched the 20th league crown. An unselfish, likeable, world-class talent, it is evident former club Arsenal looked after Robin well, and vice versa.
SC – Wayne Rooney
The subject of intense scrutiny over his future, Wayne has looked increasingly ill-at-ease of late, but Moyes has revealed he is desperate to keep his former Everton compatriot at Old Trafford. Dropped from the Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid, initial interest from Germany waned. Wayne Rooney is Wayne Rooney – a world-class player, and was the ninth best Premier League assist maker for the season just gone (and secured his fifth title). He scored in the Manchester derby and against Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League Final, and I would still have him as first-choice striker, as we always have Javier Hernandez as back-up (33 goals in 77 appearances). Now his second son, Klay has recently been born, perhaps a more settled Rooney will return to the fray at the start of August and remind us all of his undoubted, natural ability.