The Man United fixtures this year provided a mouthwatering early season selection of Man United highlights for ardent Red Devil fans. The swagger with which the English juggernauts started the league was enthralling for supporters and neutrals alike, scoring goal after goal in a rampant display of all out attacking football. A difficult opening win by 2-1 away to West Brom was followed by an impressive 3-0 home win to an ever improving Tottenham Hotspur side intent on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.
The Red Devils continued the decimation of North London sides with an astonishing 8-2 win at home to perennial title contenders Arsenal, and then travelled to the Reebok Stadium to thrash Bolton 5-0. One of the most important points raised by pundits regarding Sir Alex Ferguson’s new team was the comfort, level-headedness and creativity with which even the young players conducted themselves. Players such as Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Javier Chicharito Hernandez, Phil Jones and David de Gea have all performed with a measured assuredness and confidence well beyond their years. Their youthful vigor coupled with the experience of old stalwarts such as Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand has made the team very formidable.
While the aforementioned Bolton victory was impressive in itself, the match was also significant for another reason – the long term injury to young Tom Cleverley. Cleverley’s absence was strongly felt by United, perhaps even more so than the team itself imagined it would be. With Cleverley out, the crisp sharp passing of the earlier games subsided, and the build-up play became more methodical and predictable. Although the Red Devils did conquer another title rival in Chelsea 3-0 at Old Trafford, the signs were there for all to see. The all-conquering juggernaut was slowing down. Tough 1-1 draws away to Stoke and Liverpool sandwiched an unimpressive 2-0 home win to Norwich. The most biggest shock of the season came at Old Trafford on October 23, an unbelievable 1-6 loss at the hands of arch rivals Man City. That was the wakeup call the team apparently needed, as the humiliating loss was followed by two successive wins in the subsequent games. The Man United fixture list presented a difficult start to the season for the champions, but their overall display was nonetheless impressive and does highlight their intent to keep the title in Manchester.