Date: 29th August 2011 at 5:00pm
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There’s been a lot of talk since the start of the season about how much of a genius Alex Ferguson is and how he’s putting together a team to rival Barcelona this season. Then, they go an maul Arsenal on Sunday.  There’s no doubt in my mind that the entire media and press are going to be utterly, completely and totally insufferable in their praise for them come the next few days.  Personally, I think that’s utter nonsense; as far as I’m concerned, he is in no better a position than he was last year. All he’s done is add a winger to the two he’s already got, a keeper that will take at least a full season to completely bloom and another young centre back that won’t play every week.

They had a good result against Tottenham last weekend as well, winning 3-nil.  Only, so did City Sunday just gone, putting 5 past Spurs at their own ground.  That – coupled with currently being rock bottom – would kind of suggest that they’re actually there for the taking at the moment.  And United’s win against Arsenal on Sunday was as much to do with Arsene Wenger’s growing insanity as anything.  Anybody who saw the game could see that Ferguson appeared to be trying to stop his team from scoring toward the end and even Gary Neville took little pleasure in the nature of the scoreline.  This wasn’t a masterclass by United, this was the brutal murdering of a club already hamstrung by years of mismanagement; our own new first-team made a much stronger Arsenal look poor last weekend and were they to have played us at Anfield, we’d have probably knocked a few more past them as well.

Some might argue that United have just added to the depth of their squad but I would argue that if anything, we’ve had the far more successful summer and will also benefit more in the long-term. Ferguson has added Ashley Young and Phil Jones when, in reality, he didn’t really need them. What he needed was a couple of quality, central mid-fielders and a good holding player. The only one of their signings they actually needed was De Gea and he’s looked far from a potentially great player up to now. On the other hand, we’ve brought in Doni, arguably good enough to be a first choice at most Premier League clubs; Charlie Adam – a player United could probably have done with themselves; Stewart Downing, Jose Enrique and Jordan Henderson. Coupled with Suarez and Carroll in January (who are still seemingly new signings, as we’ve barely seen them together yet) and are looking to bring in one of the most promising young players to come out of Uruguay since Suarez himself, and for less than half the price of Phil Jones, he could turn out to be twice the player.

To back up my belief, I’m going to have a quick look over each side’s starting 11’s and the likely benches that both sides would choose if at full-strength.

GK – Reina v De Gea: I think I’ll have about 99% of fans of any club on my side in this argument, but Reina is hands-down the better keeper and De Gea is unlikely to ever reach his level (but will no doubt become first-choice for Spain, given the ‘special’ club he’s playing at). So this one is easy: Reina – 10 v De Gea – 7

RB – Kelly v Rafael: This is a slightly tougher one, as we’ve seen so little of either player, with Kelly having played 17 games for the Reds and Rafael around 40. On first impressions of both players though, they’re both incredibly promising. Kelly is a very tall and surprisingly quick full back with a growing penchant for getting forward, as he demonstrated last week against Arsenal, and Rafael likewise. The only downside to Rafael’s game is that he’s always walking a bit of a disciplinary tightrope, having already received 2 red cards in less than a half-century of games. As both show a lot of potential: Kelly – 7 v Rafael – 7

CB – Agger & Carragher v Ferdinand & Vidic: This is a difficult one for both sides as it’s highly likely that both CB pairings will change regularly over the season due to fatigue, injury, etc as both contain players that are – to put it kindly – ‘getting on’. But these are more-than-likely going to be the first choice pairings. Both Carragher and Ferdinand are coming to the end of distinguished careers and both are still highly thought of. The fact that they both walk in to two of the top sides in Europe, when fit, says a lot about both players. While Agger and Vidic are two of the best CB’s around and are likely to be for some time to come. Both sides regularly top the table when it comes to ‘goals against’ and that is largely down to having such experienced talented men at the back. While Vidic is widely regarded as one of the best in Europe though, it is also a widely held belief that Ferdinand isn’t the same player he once was and hasn’t been for some time: Agger – 8 & Carragher – 8 v Ferdinand – 7 & Vidic – 9

LB – Enrique v Evra: Both quality full backs and both with plenty of experience in the Premier League. The only thing that goes in Evra’s favour here is that he is much more proven. He’s played at the top level for years and is regarded throughout as one of the best left-backs in Europe, while Jose Enrique is one of the best in the League but only potentially in Europe: Enrique 8 v Evra – 10

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