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Thursday, 10 July 2008

Manchester United Could Be Victims Of Their Own Success

Having secured a Champions League and Premiership double last season, Manchester United’s attempts to replicate or even improve on that achievement over the coming campaign looks to be an increasingly tall order, with a number of factors seemingly conspiring against Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges even before a ball has been kicked.

We’ve had the long-running (and frankly tedious) saga of Cristiano Ronaldo’s desire to join Real Madrid. As things stand Manchester United appear to be holding firm, but there will surely come a point where Ferguson will decide that keeping a disaffected player could create tensions in the dressing room to the detriment of the team. Even should Ronaldo remain at Old Trafford, will he be inclined to or capable of raising his game to the levels to which we have become accustomed? Should he stay it will also be interesting to see quite how long his period of convalescence will turn out to be following his recent ankle surgery.

There are also ongoing reports that suggest that assistant manager Carlos Queiroz is lined up to replace Luiz Felipe Scolari as the new manager of Portugal. Although he would obviously be far easier to replace that Ronaldo, it would be another unwanted distraction ahead of the new season.

Another factor that could impact on United’s season is fixture congestion. It may seem a tad early to be worrying about such eventualities, but the Red Devils already have a hectic schedule to look forward to, no matter how successful they may or may not be in the Champions League and domestic cups.

Following a summer tour of South Africa and other pre-season friendlies, there is the FA Community Shield against Portsmouth on 10 August. At the end of August, Ferguson and his team are off to Monaco for the UEFA Super Cup game with Zenit St Petersburg, but the most damaging of all could be the demands of the FIFA World Club Cup. This takes place in Japan from 12-21 December, with Ecuador’s LDU Quito and Mexico’s Pachuca the other confirmed participants as things stand. This year the decision has also been made to reintroduce the fifth-place match, dropped for the 2007 edition, so there would be no real benefit in an early exit from the competition. These tournaments may be lucrative and provide a degree of prestige, but they are hardly conducive when it comes to competing for the trophies that really matter.

Of course, Manchester United also featured in the FIFA World Club Cup (or the FIFA World Club Championship as it was then called) in early January 2000 and still went on to win the title (although their defence of the Champions League was ended at the quarter-final stage by Real Madrid). However, they also withdrew from the FA Cup that season in order to participate in Brazil at the request of the FA, which went some way to negating the impact of the trip to South America as their three matches coincided with the 4th round of the FA Cup. There will be no such offer on the table from the FA this term.

If that wasn’t enough, the announcement of Premiership fixtures for the coming campaign provides little respite, with United’s first eight away games of the season seeing them on the road at Portsmouth, Liverpool, Chelsea, Blackburn Rovers, Everton, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Manchester City – the eight teams who finished occupied second to ninth positions in last season’s Premiership.

If United are there or thereabouts in the Premiership title race after such a hectic and difficult looking opening half of the campaign they could take some stopping, but much could depend on their ability to placate their star player and Ferguson’s transfer dealings over the coming weeks.


Daniel Kossen

Great article, some great points. Probably the first person to think about the fixture list rather than Scolari vs Ferguson or the evamped Chelsea or Arsenal's mass exodus or Liverpool's stingy negotiations...very thoughtful as the fixture list will play a bigger part than those issues.


yeah thoughtful but these mathematics are difficult to work out from so far now. stuff happen and sir alex is a wily old goat if there was one. man u will not make the mistakes a naive mourinho did in his last season of attempting to win every trophy on u will choose well and wisely.
besides man u's strength is in the latter part of the season.

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