Manchester United came within a whisker of claiming the Premier League title last season.
Had Edin Dzeko’s header or Sergio Aguero’s strike not found the back of the net in injury-time, the Red Devils would have won a 20th English league title in a season that ebbed and flowed in various directions throughout.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were out of it midway through the campaign, but came back into it as the Citizens stumbled. Defeat at the Etihad Stadium on April 30th ultimately cost the Red Devils the title, and it was simply cruel the way City snatched it from them on the final day of the season.
Opposition fans would say that it’s been a long time coming however, with United’s ability to score goals at the end of matches somewhat legendary in the world of football.
That things went against them on this occasion is now, in many ways, irrelevant. Ferguson will not be dwelling on the pain of defeat, and already have his mind focused on the challenges ahead at the start of the Premier League season.
They didn’t get more points than City, didn’t have a better goal difference than City, and lost the title because of it. These are the key factors that the Scottish boss will be looking to address.
To start this process, he’s drafted in Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa and Crewe starlet Nick Powell. The later is a signing for the future, and won’t play much of a role at all at the club this season, if any. A loan move to the Championship would seem like a logical option.
Kagawa is different though, with Ferguson already confirming that the £12m signing from Borussia Dortmund will be involved from the start this season.
12 months ago, United were in the market for a Paul Scholes replacement. Whilst the former England international is back in the squad, he can’t play week-in, week-out, and Kagawa appears to have been handed the keys to the creative future at Old Trafford.
His signing alone will not be enough for United, and whilst City haven’t strengthened this summer like in past transfer windows, they already have the squad to win the title. They proved that last season, and with the confidence from winning it, are likely to be even better this term.
Ferguson will be well aware of that fact, and admitted last week that he’s hoping to add another player as soon as possible.
“There will possibly be one more. We have always done well in terms of getting players in at the end of the season. That is the right time,” Ferguson told the press at the unveiling of Kagawa and Powell.
“But always in a European Championship or World Cup year, there is a delay in the transfer industry. That is over now and we are still trying to get one more in.”
So the big question to answer is: Who is the player United are chasing, and what position does he play in?
In goal, United spent big on David De Gea last summer, and won’t be looking to replace him straight away.
At the centre of defence, a returning Nemanja Vidic joins Rio Ferdinand at the heart of the side, with Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones also vying for starts.
The later two can play at right-back, as can Rafael Da Silva, whilst Patrice Evra is the sole left-back with Fabio Da Silva on loan at QPR. This is an area United could be seen as quite weak, and Leighton Baines is a player to be heavily linked with a move.
In midfield, big things are expected of Tom Cleverley, with Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Anderson, Michael Carrick and now Kagawa the other central options. Out wide, Antonio Valencia, Luis Nani and Ashley Young provide a serious threat, suggesting United are well set in these areas.
Up-front, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov are the four main options following Michael Owen’s departure, with the Bulgarian international potentially joining him on the United scrapheap.
If he does leave, then paper reports that Robin Van Persie is the man on the United radar could well come to fruition, and landing the Dutchman would be a major coup for the club.
His addition could be the difference between winning the title and not, and if Ferguson sees it that way as well, expect the kitchen sink to be thrown at the Emirates in an effort to bring ‘RVP’ to Manchester.
Business is far from over at United, and that’s a good thing for the fans if they want to see more silverware in the 2012/13 season. The concern should be if one more signing is enough to rescue the title from local rivals City however, and trust must be placed at Ferguson's door to restore parity in this part of the world.
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