Premier League prospects: Man City and Man Utd in 2015/16
Premier League prospects: Man City and Man Utd in 2015/16
As the dawn of the new Premier League season approaches we take a look at the prospects of the both the Red and Blue side of Manchester.
Despite Manchester City’s second place last term their trophyless campaign brought with it a cloud of despondency and criticism directed towards Manuel Pellegrini.
In contrast, Louis van Gaal rescued Manchester United somewhat from the turbulent post Alex Ferguson season, securing Champions League football again for the three-times European champions.
Here, MM take a look at what both clubs have been up to this summer and how they might fare in 2015/16.
You don’t have to be a mathematics scholar to work out City would dearly love to continue a pattern which has seen them finish second, first, second, first and second in their last five seasons.
The summer has been a busy one as usual at the Etihad, the Raheem Sterling saga ending when he joined the club for £49 million while Fabian Delph also joined from Aston Villa to add competition in midfield.
City also signed England youngster Patrick Roberts from Fulham, although it is hard to see him having much of an impact this campaign.
To offset those arrivals City have let the likes of Stevan Jovetic, Scott Sinclair, James Milner and Micah Richards move on to pastures new. Plus it also looks likely that Edin Dzeko will follow them out of the door.
Despite the comings and goings it is very much the question marks surrounding current members of the squad that will dictate how City fare this season.
The fitness and form of skipper Vincent Kompany last season was a major concern for all at the club, given he managed only 23 league appearances, and, having had a summer without tournament football, City hope he will be back to his best.
Yaya Toure remains at the club and the big Ivorian can be the difference, even if he didn’t hit the heights last season. However, the speculation that surrounded him seems to have disappeared which should allow him to focus on being a match winner.
Star striker Sergio Aguero has had a busy summer on international duty and Pellegrini will want to get the Argentine up to speed quickly as they host champions Chelsea in game week two.
After all, keeping Aguero on the field will be crucial to City's fortunes, yet the loss of two strikers means there will be even more pressure on keeping him fit.
Wilfried Bony will benefit from a full preseason at the club, but there could be room for one more player up front. However the manager has indicated that Sterling is able to play centrally.
City have continually disappointed in Europe and, with the opportunities running out for this squad to make an impact in the Champions League, they have been handed a boost by an improvement in their UEFA coefficient, resulting in them being placed in the second group of seeds. This may mean they avoid the usual group of death from seasons gone by.
City have shown they prefer to win the Premier League rather than defend it. With the settled nature of their squad and potential new arrivals still to come, they should be there or thereabouts again this season.
United enter this season on the back of two trophyless terms, though everybody will have been satisfied with Van Gaal’s first season in charge.
The Dutchman has enjoyed a full pre-season and has continued his overhaul of the squad, meaning United will be significantly stronger in midfield. They’ve been crying out for the signing of a world class midfielder for years and in Bastian Schweinsteiger they have certainly got one. The 31-year-old World Cup winner could be a star if he can stay fit.
Most United fans will be itching to see Memphis Depay, who signed in May and could wear the number 7 shirt vacated by Angel Di Maria. His prowess from set pieces may spark memories of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Further strength has been added with Morgan Schneiderlin arriving from Southampton while full-back Matteo Darmian and goalkeeper Sergio Romero have also come in.
Along with Di Maria, United have shed a large number of squad players. Robin van Persie has gone to Turkey along with Nani and the Dutchman will be remembered for being the difference in Ferguson's final season before, unfortunately, injuries took their toll.
As for Nani? Well, the Portuguese leaves with the question of what might have been. Oh and Tom Cleverley has also moved on to Everton.
United's biggest question remains over the future of first-choice goalie David De Gea. He was hauled off at half time in their last pre-season match following an uncharacteristic mistake.
With one year left on his contract he seems certain to leave within 12 months but Van Gaal must decide if it is worth the risk of keeping a player who will not commit to the club and whose mind may be elsewhere.
Darmian’s arrival will help United's defence although fans will be disappointed not to see the arrival of a top quality centre back. Chris Smalling showed good signs of progress last season and it will be hoped Phil Jones can do the same. Marcos Rojo will benefit from the experience of last season and may improve, and they will hope that Luke Shaw will come back fitter and begin to fulfil his potential.
Van Gaal has an embarrassment of riches in midfield. Along with the new arrivals, United have Mr Reliable Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera to pick centrally. Further forward United have new signing Depay who must be a certainty to start.
Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young and Adnan Januzaj will compete to play in whatever formation the manager decides.
All those midfield options should put an end to captain Wayne Rooney's defensive midfield role for the foreseeable future. But worryingly for United fans, they seem totally reliant on him to lead the line.
Javier Hernandez and James Wilson offer the only known back up currently though whether Hernandez will still be there in September is questionable.
It seems strange to question Rooney's goal scoring record, after all he’s a man who seems certain to break records for club and country but he has only managed to score 20 league goals in two seasons in his career.
City’s Aguero and Chelsea frontman Diego Costa both managed 20 plus for the champions and runners-up and United's fortunes may lie in the hands of the skipper and his ability to hit the magic 20-goal mark.
With many questions still surrounding transfers in and out of the squad, determining how successful United will be this season may only be possible at the end of the transfer window.
Image courtesy of Copa90 via YouTube, with thanks.