Manchester United Preview

Manager: Louis van Gaal
Stadium: Old Trafford
Captain: Wayne Rooney
Top Scorer: Wayne Rooney (14)

Manchester United have kept van Gaal in charge after a satisfactory season bringing the Red Devils that 4th place and a return to Europe which is what they wanted at the end of last season.

Manchester United seemed to have recruited well spending a lot of money on players like former Real Madrid Di Maria being the record signing for the Barclays Premier League he arrived with Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo all of whom played a part albeit some bigger than others over the course of the season. Di Maria went from being the saviour of souls at Old Trafford to the pantomime villain. From 22nd November van Gaal’s team didn’t fall lower than 4th a very consistent performance from the most successful English team of all time.

After Manchester United’s assault on the leaders of the league in March including impressive victories over their 2 biggest rivals Manchester City and Liverpool came unstuck in April as they suffered 3 straight defeats to Chelsea, Everton and West Bromwich Albion which saw Manchester United concede 5 goals and fail to score. These 3 games saw Manchester United fall to 4th behind London club Arsenal a deficit they would fail to recover. Rooney’s leadership over the course of the season has been sensational not just in his leadership but he has also scored a number of sensational goals. The England striker did seem to go off the boil in front of goal towards the end of the season but he still led his club to 4th and the fans have their faith restored in the world class squad.

Di Maria celebrates scoring a goal with captain Wayne Rooney.

Di Maria celebrates scoring a goal with captain Wayne Rooney.

Despite the money spent of Luke Shaw and Angel Di Maria they couldn’t be consistently brilliant, pre-Christmas Di Maria was the hero after Christmas the devil. Shaw the young English fullback was not given nearly enough game time to build on last season where he had a wonderful season for Southampton who suddenly burst into life last season despite the raids on the young riches available on the south coast. The question was would van Gaal spend the money more wisely come this summer and be able to build on the 4th placed finish they achieved last time out.

Manchester United needed a player to step up last season, there was a lot of fanfare for David de Gea who did a wonderful job despite the poor excuse of a defence that he plays behind. Only God knows why van Gaal insists on buying midfielders rather than a solid centre half. My player of the season for Manchester United though has to be Fellaini, the midfielder became a monstrous presence for United in the midfield, directing play aerially or otherwise. A long ball style was adapted by Manchester United mid-season and that really helped the Belgian achieve what he set out to when he was signed by former boss David Moyes. Fellaini is now rightly regarded as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, his excellent displays of power and aerial ability did seem to fall a little limp as fatigue set in but we are sure to see these displays come to the fore once again most probably over the winter months.

Marouane Fellaini on the ball for Manchester United.

Marouane Fellaini on the ball for Manchester United.

Recruitment of expensive players a theme of van Gaal’s tenure at the helm so far bringing in players like Di Maria and Shaw for inflated prices and the Dutch manager has brought in a fair few players again. Bastain Schweinsteiger, Germany World Cup Winner and former Bayern Munich captain is amont the new names on the United roster. The midfielder brings both experience and a wealth of class, his passing game and organisation are outstanding, his success could breed a new generation of success and achievement at the club. Another midfielder is French maestro Schneiderlin who has been outstanding at Southampton over the past few seasons, key to the success at St Mary’s. The French midfielder made 230 appearances for the Saints and became a club hero, he will hope to repeat that feat in the north west. Dutch youngster Memphis Depay also arrived over the summer, the talented forward is likely to be deployed alongside former England whizzkid Rooney in what is shaping up to be a very deadly attacking force that could rival Manchester City and Chelsea. Matteo Darmian finally a player United actually need came in the defender will provide a solid choice to play in defence to help out the mediocre centre backs at Old Trafford. All their signings at profile as they also add Argentina international Romero to the ranks and after his World Cup in Brazil you can understand why, the shot stopper had been brought in because they feared the departure of De Gea but he’s staying so now van Gaal has 3 international keepers to choose from.

Schweinsteiger lifting the World Cup for Germany.

Schweinsteiger lifting the World Cup for Germany.

The saga of De Gea staying or going took a long time to sort itself out which depended on the future of defender Ramos at Real Madrid. Di Maria is on his way out it would seem as every day he edges towards a move to the French capital to link up with stars like Ibrahimovic and Silva. This is yet to be confirmed but I doubt the Argentine player will be staying in England. Colombian striker Falcao has gone on another loan this time to Chelsea another high profile flop for Manchester United. Van Persie heads abroad after failing to make an impact this season and with the signing of Depay the writing was on the wall for the Dutch international. He heads to Fenerbahçe along with Nani who never really won over the crowd in Manchester. Tom Cleverley has also left heading for Everton in another move for a United flop.

IN: Memphis Depay (PSV Eindhoven, £24.6 million)
Bastain Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich, Undisclosed)
Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton, Undisclosed)
Matteo Darmian (Torino, Undisclosed)
Sergio Romero (Unattached, Free)

OUT: Robin van Persie (Fenerbahçe, Undisclosed)
Nani (Fenerbahçe, £4.25 million)
Tom Cleverley (Everton, Free)
Angelo Henríquez (Dinamo Zagreb, Undisclosed)
Reece James (Wigan Athletic, Undisclosed)
Saidy Janko (Celtic, Free)
Ben Amos (Free Agents, Free)
Callum Evans (Free Agents, Free)
Tom Thorpe (Free Agents, Free)
Ryan McConnell (Free Agents, Free)

So Manchester United have recruited well and add to a fairly strong squad already. If van Gaal can get United on the right path building on last season is possible however with the way Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea are looking I strongly suspect Manchester United fans will be left disappointed.

My Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): 1 D.de Gea; NA M.Darmian 12 C.Smalling 5 M.Rojo 3 L.Shaw; 31 M.Fellaini NA B.Schweinsteiger; NA M.Depay 8 J.Mata 11 A.Januzaj; 10 W.Rooney (C)

Bench: NA S.Romero 2 Rafael 42 T.Blackett 17 D.Blind 18 A.Young NA M.Schneiderlin 14 J.Hernández

Last Season: 4th
Prediction: 4th

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Crystal Palace Preview

Manager: Alan Pardew
Stadium: Selhurst Park
Captain: Mile Jedinak
Top Scorer: Dwight Gayle (10)

Crystal Palace had a real transformation when former Newcastle boss Pardew joined the club he had enjoyed a successful spell at as a player. He took Crystal Palace from a possible relegation scrap to mid-table safety and with some very talented players I see no reason they can’t secure an even better spot this season and possibly fight for European football.

Jedinak celebrates scoring against Liverpool.

Jedinak celebrates scoring against Liverpool.

Crystal Palace claimed some impressive scalps throughout the season against top sides with wins against Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs all falling foul of the London club. The victories made them confident and that was expressed in the second half of the season and with players like Bolasie, Zaha and Jedinak made chances for the likes of Chamakh and Gayle. Crystal Palace are a force to be reckoned with as the teams found out over the course of the season.

After Pardew took over Crystal Palace won 10 games and lost only 7 in a run that lifted the club into mid-table and away from a relegation scrap which became closer to call as the season progressed. Crystal Palace’s form at Selhurst Park over the course of the season will give the club hope for next season especially with the recruitment Pardew has made over the summer as well as shifting some deadwood in the squad. Their cup runs were also credible only falling to Liverpool in the FA Cup and Newcastle in the League Cup in early stages but to only lose to Premier League opposition should stand them in good stead heading into the cup competitions this coming season.

Given the mentality Crystal Palace built under the stewardship of Pardew they can head into this season proud but eager to progress to the next level in terms of quality and clinical ability. Crystal Palace have proved themselves now and their aim for this season has to be a top 8 finish. The way they finished the season was impressive as they practically switched places with Newcastle as the latter crashed into the relegation battle which was something to admire when watching the London club.

Yannick Bolasie was so strong for Crystal Palace last season his pace down the wings make him very good at beating defenders some of the strongest full backs have their work cut out against him. The winger was instrumental to his team’s attack and worked well in covering in defence. When he fires though not many defenders would fancy their chances. I am surprised the winger has not been approached by the likes of Liverpool who are in the market for a replacement for City attacking midfielder Sterling. Bolasie will have a huge effect on Crystal Palace’s fortune this season.

Yannick Bolasie on the ball against Everton.

Yannick Bolasie on the ball against Everton.

Crystal Palace have seen a reunion over the summer with the recruitment of former Newcastle midfielder Cabaye to Crystal Palace. Cabaye adds some creativity to the Crystal Palace midfield and if the French international plays well then Palace will most likely have a good season. Cabaye is a strong provider and will also add goals with his venomous shot. Yohan Cabaye made 79 appearances for Newcastle and scored 17 goals, he also has made 39 appearances for France and scored 3 goals. Palace have recruited a goalkeeper to add strength to an already strong pool of talent with Speroni and Hennessy already at the club. He is unlikely to make the team with the already talented duo at the club.

Cabaye joining Crystal Palace will see a reunion with former Newcastle boss Alan Pardew.

Cabaye joining Crystal Palace will see a reunion with former Newcastle boss Alan Pardew.

Pardew has done well in recruitment and also in offloading some of the players that were not really adding anything to the squad except for taking up space on the wage bill. Jerome Thomas is leaving in one of the high profile names relative to some of the names on the list as Cabaye comes in another former Newcastle man Shola Ameobi leaves the club on a long list of names that leave the club this summer.

IN: Yohan Cabaye (Paris Saint-Germain, £10 million)
Alex McCarthy (Queens Park Rangers, £3.5 million)

OUT: Shola Ameobi (Free Agent, Free)
Sonny Black (Free Agent, Free)
Michael Chambers (Welling United, Free)
Shawniki Clement-Peter (Free Agent, Free)
Bradley Commins (Free Agent, Free)
Kyle De Silva (Notts County, Free)
Stephen Dobbie (Free Agent, Free)
Mandela Egbo (Borussia Monchengladbach, Undisclosed)
Morgan Ferrier (Free Agent, Free)
Owen Garvan (Free Agent, Free)
Jahmal Howlett-Mundle (Heart of Midlothian, Free)
Elliot List (Gillingham, Released)
Kiye Martin (Free Agent, Free)
Lewis Price (Sheffield Wednesday, Free)
Peter Ramage (Free Agent, Free)
Ghassimu Sow (Free Agent, Free)
Jerome Thomas (Free Agent, Free)

Crystal Palace have a squad capable of winning big games next season and finishing in a strong position couple with that with the addition of a star midfielder and there you have a team that could do something special. They have to aim for an improvement on last season and if they play like we all know they can then that is inevitable.

My Crystal Palace XI (4-2-3-1): 1 J.Speroni; 2 J.Ward 6 S.Dann 27 D.Delaney 34 M.Kelly; 15 M.Jedinak (C) 18 J.McArthur; 7 Y.Bolasie 14 Y.Cabaye 11 W.Zaha; 29 M.Chamakh

Bench: 13 W.Hennessy 5 P.McCarthy 4 B.Hangeland 28 J.Ledley 22 J.Mutch 42 J.Puncheon 9 P.Bamford

Last Season: 10th
Prediction: 8th

Chelsea Preview

Manger: José Mourinho
Stadium: Stamford Bridge
Captain: John Terry
Top Scorer: Diego Costa (21)

Chelsea had a wonderful season last term with the return of the ‘Special One’ to steer Chelsea to a wonderful League Cup and Premier League double. He signed some deadly players last season snapping up the duo of Luis and Costa from the Spanish capital as well as Cuadrado developing this team into one of the most dangerous and coveted in Europe.

Chelsea after winning the Barclays Premier League.

Chelsea after winning the Barclays Premier League.

Chelsea only lost 4 games all season, 3 coming in the Premier League and the final 1 in the FA Cup 4th round. That is an astonishing achievement they went a whole Champions League campaign without losing still to get knocked out by French giant PSG who went through due to the frankly ridiculous away goals rule. Chelsea also only lost away from home with trips to St James’ Park, White Hart Lane and The Hawthorns proving too tricky for the champions. It took them until 6th December to lose their first match as Newcastle beat them 2-1. Chelsea were to beat them just over a month later in the return leg for sweet revenge but not before an excellent solo Harry Kane performance handed Chelsea defeat number 2.

Following the loss to Tottenham they went 16 matches unbeaten including a 5-0 thrashing of Swansea away from home and 1-0 win over Manchester United in impressive fashion. Chelsea were strong in attack and defence ending the season 8 points clear of 2nd placed Manchester City. Having conceded just 32 goals Mourinho could rest assured his team was not just the brilliant Costa, Fabregas combination that seemed unstoppable for the first half of the season leading to Costa’s 21 goals over the course of the season.

Chelsea’s Champions League run was also impressive only conceding 3 goals over the course of the group stage but racked up 17 including a 6-0 hammering of Maribor and a 5-0 thrashing of Schalke which was hugely impressive. Chelsea have just been outstanding in every facet of the game, nobody can quite get close to Chelsea in terms of class and strength in depth as well as the world class names like Hazard, Costa and Cahill they have the youngsters such as Loftus-Cheek and Solanke coming through to join the side that cannot stop winning trophies.

Costa was impressive last season, so was Fabregas, Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill the list goes on but the best player for Chelsea was Eden Hazard. An innovative, magic attacking player. his turn of pace and touch make him one of the most desirable midfielders in the world, he’s young as well at only 24 the Belgian has plenty more time to develop into one of the best players in world football. I’m surprised the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG and Bayern Munich haven’t come knocking for Hazard, if he continue this form into next season nobody will have a chance.

Eden Hazard celebrates a goal against Hull.

Eden Hazard celebrates a goal against Hull.

Chelsea’s title winning season meant they didn’t need to bring in a huge amount of players especially with the youth coming through the ranks at Stamford Bridge. They have signed 4 players with Begovic being the most significant bringing in back up for the fabulous Courtois who has been the standout goalkeeper in the league ahead of De Gea, Hart and anybody else in England. That signing could prove to be hugely important ahead of the new season where depth could be important for Chelsea.

New signing Begovic in action for Stoke.

New signing Begovic in action for Stoke.

Chelsea have lost two veterans in Ivorian striker Drogba and Czech keeper Cech and they were sent off in style by the stylish London club. Czech was sold to rivals Arsenal which probably led to the capture of Begovic from Premier League rivals Stoke. They have also sold young midfielder McEachran to Brentford for a surprisingly low fee for such a talented player who has been crying out to be played more which shouldn’t be a problem at Brentford.

IN: Asmir Begovic (Stoke City, £8 million)
Kenedy (Fluminese, £6.3 million)
Nathan (Atletico Paranaense, £4.5 million)
Danilo Pantic (Partizan, 1.25 million)

OUT: Petr Cech (Arsenal, £10.9 million)
Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach, £5.85 million)
Gael Kakuta (Sevilla, £2.5 million)
Josh McEachran (Brentford, £750,000)
Didier Drogba (Free Agent, Free)
George Brady (Sunderland, Free)

Chelsea have made some worthwhile additions to an already strong squad. Chelsea are dangerous and they are well on course to bag the trophy again for Mourinho and Stamford Bridge. A back to back Premier League winning season would be something special but you’d have to be crazy to bet against it.

My Chelsea XI (4-2-3-1): 13 T.Courtois; 2 B.Ivanovic 24 G.Cahill 26 J.Terry (C) 28 C.Azpilicueta; 21 N.Matic 4 C.Fabregas; 10 E.Hazard 8 Oscar 11 J.Cuadrado; 19 D.Costa

Bench: 1 A.Begovic 3 F.Luis 5 K.Zouma 12 J. Obi Mikel 7 Ramires 36 R.Loftus-Cheek 9 R.Falcao

Last Season: Champions
Prediction: Champions