TBB: As Bromantic will tell you, I have had an unnatural four year love affair with Robin van Persie. However, my reaction to his transfer, which coincidentally was broken to me by Bromantic via text, was very simply "meh." I didn't feel another striker was what United needed, especially with the development of Danny Welbeck and continued goal poaching of Javier Hernandez available. After the ghastly injury to Wayne Rooney and the fine form of RvP to date, I have changed my tune significantly. He is a great player and has slotted into the squad seamlessly. I watched the CL clash this weekend and actually couldn't find an obvious spot for Rooney to slot right back into. That is a great problem to have and one that speaks to the tremendous depth of the squad up top.
With all of that said for van Persie, I was ecstatic over the signing of Shinji Kagawa. He came from two time Bundesliga champion squad, Borussia Dortmund where he excelled in behind the lone striker. He is finally the cover that United has needed for Rooney in a number 10 role. After watching his highlights from BD, however, it was obvious that he was not signed as cover. He is tremendous with the ball at his feet and is able to thread a through ball almost as nicely as Paul Scholes is able to hit a long diagonal. His nonstop pressure when out of possession also may speak to a big philosophy change by Sir Alex.
The other two signings are young and make a lot of sense for the future. Nick Powell is an energetic central midfielder with a penchant for a cracking goal from long range. Alex Buttner is a Dutch left back that was a relative unknown until he was signed by United in the summer. If their debut was any indication (a goal apiece vs Wigan) the future could be bright and United may have solved some glaring holes at leftback and central midfield moving forward.
As for the last question, I would have said Chelsea was definitely a possibility after the start they had to the campaign. However, that cup match against Atletico Madrid was a truly awful display on a big stage. Their backline looked beyond suspect and they were unable to get the outside of their own half for much of the match. I see it tight at the top between the Manchester clubs and Chelsea until around February and then expect Chelsea to fall off the pace, much the way Spurs did last year.
AA: Who is the least heralded player playing in this game that you think will make an impact? What strategy do you think will be used to neutralize Liverpool’s possession?
TBB: The first one is easy if he plays. MIchael Carrick is one of the most underrated players in English football. He is a poor man's Scholes when it comes to picking out a run down the flank and put it where it needs to be. In addition, while not a destroyer as a holding midfielder, he is very good with his positioning to shield the back four and track runners from the opposition"s midfield.
I would be surprised if United don't attempt to play a possession based game themselves but if they don't I would expect to see them play off the counter. The skill and pace of United's attacking players is arguably the best in the premier league and I would expect to see Sir Alex try to find them space to run at defenders if he doesn't go the possession route in attack.
AA: Are you intimidated right now by playing Liverpool? Which of your youngsters are you most excited about? Would you rather City win the EPL or LFC win it?
TBB: In a word, no. Manchester United can score goals, while that is still a work in progress for Liverpool.
That is a tough question because the youngsters I was really excited about last year have all departed the club.They are only two years removed from winning the FA youth cup so that speaks to the quality of the squad and not just three players. Nick Powell, mentioned above, is only 18 years old and looks to be a great buy. Those with the U-21's to look at are Michael and Will Keane, although Will tore a cruciate recently, and Robbie Brady, who can play as a left winger or defender.
Honestly, I would rather City because I have this issue with enjoying the long term struggles of teams. I am happy to see the Cubs and Red Sox go through their droughts in Major League baseball to name an example. Now that City has broken through and gotten their title, I guess that means I have to enjoy the misery of Liverpool fans in my sick way.
AA: Is it true when Fergie says that the Glazers’ ownership of United has been GREAT for the club and that the majority of all real/true United fans agree with this opinion?
TBB: Sir Alex has definitely expressed this sentiment but there is much debate amongst supporters as to whether or not its towing the company line or his actual feelings. I would guess that 90+% of supporters are anti-Glazer and the financial reports speak for themselves. Luckily it has yet to show a significant effect in the transfer window or on the pitch so fans haven't reached the frenzy that brought the Gillette/Hicks regime to an end for Liverpool.
AA: What do you guys make of the RVP acquisition? A shrewd practical buy regardless of the age and injury history or a Glazers move to calm down the fans after losing out to PSG for Lucas Moura and the general panic that seemed to have spread there-after?
TBB: I answered the RvP question earlier so I will focus on Moura. I was pretty neutral on his possible transfer. He was way too similar to Nani and seemed to be a bit selfish for the style of winger that United typically employ in the squad. I honestly think RvP had been Ferguson's goal throughout and feel Moura would have been more of a backup plan than vice versa.
AA: What are your thoughts on Chicharito's future or better yet, Rooney's future with all the rumors that were swirling as the window closed?
TBB: I think there will be plenty of squad rotation with the start of Champions League football so it should keep everyone happy. Chicharito has been played in a super sub role more of late and, as you may remember, has a penchant for late and dramatic goals in big spots. I think Rooney will fill a role similar to the one he did with Ronaldo and Tevez in the lineup 4 years ago. He regularly slotted out left and would drift inside. I like that role for him better to get the best attackers on the pitch in Rooney, RvP, and Shinji Kagawa.
AA: How has Vidic been since his return from injury?
TBB: Its been nice to have the squad captain back and after a couple games where he appeared to be working himself back into match fitness, the Vidic of old appears to be coming back. Hopefully, that doesn't mean a fourth red card in five trips to Anfield this weekend.
AA: What do you make of your goalkeeping situation, especially with Lindegard being given the start over deGea a few weeks back?
TBB: I thought it was Sir Alex just attempting to get David de Gea's attention after some mental errors versus Fulham but Ferguson has come out and said they will rotate the rest of the season. Personally, I would rather see de Gea in net. He is a brilliant shot stopper than was obviously a bit overwhelmed by the physicality of the Premier League. Since the new year he had been excellent, however, and the one shaky match versus Fulham shouldn't have caused him to lose his spot.
AA: Were you opposed to selling Nani? How would this have impacted the club if it had gone through?
TBB: I was not. While Nani can be brilliant when on his game, his inconsistency drives me crazy. This is only compounded by his selfishness when on the pitch. The rumored fee was in the neighborhood of 25M pounds from Zenit St Petersburg would have been more than enough to find a capable young replacement to sit behind Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck, or even Wayne Rooney out left.
AA: What do you see for a score come Sunday?
TBB: I expect United to come out and attempt to keep possession in the first half and eventually get a goal. They will probably do as usual and play deeper in order to protect the lead and break on the counter. I can see at least one goal for each side if United go with that strategy so I'm thinking a 2-1 scoreline is about right.