Jun 17, 2013, 7:39 PM EDT
How much is Alex Ferguson worth in the standings? Or, more specifically, what will the difference between Ferguson and his replacement, David Moyes, mean to the Red Devils? Because if Ferguson was half as influential as his prodigious reputation implied, Manchester United’s going to take a step back. The big question is how much.
On one hand, trying to determine exactly how much Ferguson means over Moyes is a pointless exercise. We’ll never be able to verify our conclusion. On the other hand, it may be the most important evaluation United makes all summer. Before assessing their needs relative to Manchester City and Chelsea — before determining the financial commitment they need to make to maintain their English standing while improving in Europe — the Red Devils need to decide what they’ve lost. That may not result in a precise number of points they feel they’ve given back to their competition, but it will lead to a general plan of what they’d like to accomplish this summer.
I say “will lead” as if England’s champions haven’t already done this. Undoubtedly they’ve made their assessments and picked their targets, players that will go beyond the project right back they acquired last week. The Red Devils continue to have a need in central midfield. There are concerns wide, where their high-priced talents failed to produce last season. Unless they address those needs, either by getting more out of their players or acquiring new talent, the 11-point gap between them and Manchester City will prove smaller than it seems.
That’s why the relative silence from United should concern Red Devils’ supporters. While links to Marouane Fellaini, Robert Lewandowski, Leighton Baines and (even) Gareth Bale persist, most of those players have been linked elsewhere, with United’s place in the rumors serving as the normal “everybody sounds out Manchester United” part of most high-level gossip. Coming off a season in which they accumulated 89 points, it would be easy for the club to justify a stay-the-course approach.
Meanwhile, in the blue half of Manchester, United’s rivals have already made a number of significant changes. The acquisition of Jesus Navas from Sevilla may not be a huge upgrade on Samir Nasri’s talent, but stylistically, he offers City a significant difference from the two wide-to-in playmakers they played as winger last season. On the opposite flank of David Silva, Navas gives City a needed alternative – somebody who have beat a man one-on-one, pick out City’s snipers from wide, as well as open up the middle of the field.
Through the middle, that means more space for Silva to cut in and orchestrate. It gives Sergio Agüero and Carlos Tévez more room to play beneath the back line. It gives Fernandinho and Yaya Touré space to get forward without the side effects that come with keeping Nasri and Silva wide. With Navas, a natural wide player, the team’s balance improves.
The biggest upgrade, though, may be on the sideline, with Manuel Pellegrini replacing Roberto Mancini. Il Mancho is a well-decorated coach, but Pellegrini’s on a different level. Throughout his career, Pellegrini’s never failed to improve the teams he’s joined, be those teams big or small, ambitious or recovering.
Particularly with the acquisition of Fernandinho, City is starting to look like a very Manuel Pellegrini team. The midfield duo will be able to confidently use a possession-based game to dictate play without making compromises defensively. They’ll be able to play patiently, using their variety in attack to test their opposition, with Pellegrini uses the depth assured by City’s finances to mix-and-match over the course of a season.
The bigger concern with Pellegrini is the fact he hasn’t won a title at this level; that he may not know the buttons that need to be pushed to transcend that 11-point gap. But if the early summer moves from Manchestern United’s rivals mean anything, that 11-point reference is far less meaningful than it was at season’s end. With Ferguson gone, Pellegrini on scene, and City having already made two huge moves, surely the quality difference between the two sides is a much more manageable number.
The better part of the summer’s still to play out, but based on initial returns, the offseason’s been a tale of two Manchesters. The blue side has acted quickly to address their needs, while their red rivals are taking a more deliberate approach.
And of course, we can’t forget that resurgent power in West London.
Sep 14, 2014, 11:58 PM EDT
Phillip Lahm sees Real Madrid as the Champions League favorites.
Sep 14, 2014, 11:44 PM EDT
Manchester United blanked QPR, 4-0, in the only match that Premier League match that occurred on Sunday.
Sep 14, 2014, 10:42 PM EDT
Recap of each MLS competition this weekend.
Sep 14, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT
Philippe Coutinho said that he would entertain an extension at Liverpool
Sep 14, 2014, 7:28 PM EDT
Jeremy Menez tallied a brace and a spectacular goal as AC Milan edged Parma in a high-scoring affair.
Sep 14, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT
A very tough goal scored by FC Dallas striker Blas Perez from an MLS match last night.
Sep 14, 2014, 5:34 PM EDT
President Obama sent the Belgian embassy a pack of beer after he lost a World Cup bet on Twitter.
Sep 14, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT
Ronaldo may eye a even bigger contract at the end of this season, but not at Real Madrid.
Sep 14, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
NBC’s Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle and Kyle Martino discuss the performances of Manchester United’s new players in a 4-0 drubbing of QPR.
Sep 14, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT
Goalkeeper Iker Casillas wasn’t opposed to fans whistling at him during Real Madrid’s match vs. Atletico Madrid.
Sep 14, 2014, 2:47 PM EDT
After a comprehensive 90 minutes for their first win of the year, van Gaal is bullish on the Red Devils’ chances going forward.
Sep 14, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT
With Newcastle’s managerial situation deteriorating rapidly, there is one week to turn things around.
Sep 14, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT
After 450 matches for Manchester United, Rio Ferdinand returned to Old Trafford on the opposing end for the first time.
Sep 14, 2014, 12:52 PM EDT
Angel Di Maria is good. Really, really good.
Sep 14, 2014, 12:12 PM EDT
The Bayern Munich loanee makes his professional league debut.
Sep 14, 2014, 11:38 AM EDT
It’s the first goal of his Premier League career for the $99 million man.
Sep 14, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
Falcao is not in the starting lineup in his first Manchester United game available for selection.
Sep 14, 2014, 9:51 AM EDT
Early estimates have Debuchy missing crucial Premier League matches against Chelsea as well as the North London derby.
Sep 14, 2014, 9:13 AM EDT
Time could be up on Alan Pardew’s up and down tenure at Newcastle United.
Sep 14, 2014, 8:34 AM EDT
A thigh tear will mean the man who missed two years with an ACL tear will yet again see the sidelines for an extended period of time.
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