Ongoing story - With Vidic committing his future to the club with a new 'long term deal' the main story is around the clubs finances or more importantly Fergie's sudden reluctance to splash the cash. David Gill has declared the money is there if he wants to spend but Fergie says the market isn't right, couple this with the recent revelations regarding season ticket sales & MUST's campaign things aren't looking as great as they once were for Untied off the pitch
Javier Hernandez (From Chivas Guadalajara, undisclosed but rumoured to be £7m up to £12m with add no’s)
When Man Utd announced his signing it caught a lot of people by surprise, he was a relative ‘unknown’ so a lot of research was done on you tube etc to find out more and realise that actually he looked pretty good. I watch some clips of him on a website and he’s clearly got something about him, a great first touch and excellent eye for goal and he showed this in the World Cup, scoring a couple of lovely goals against France & Argentina respectively and showing a glimpse of what could come next season
Chris Smalling (From Fulham, undisclosed rumoured around £7m)
The young English defender has had an incredible rise, coming from non league football with Maidstone United to Manchester United via Fulham. A couple of shaky games for Fulham after the deal was agreed and giving away a penalty against Celtic on his United debut but fans will remember the shaky starts Vidic & Evra had before becoming rocks for the team. A solid defender considered the long term partner for J.Evans once Vidic & Rio start getting on
Zoran Tosic (To CSKA Moscow, undisclosed but rumoured around £7m) Signed at the same as Adem Ljajic (who’s deal later collapsed) but never really hit the heights expected of him as he failed to develop physically as the club would have liked, should have more luck in Russia
Key Player – Wayne Rooney without a doubt, United will need him firing like last season if they’re to win the title, although an injury free defence would probably make a difference although that’s less likely to happen
My expectations – I think if Rooney stays fit and carries on improving United should win the league, they would have won it last year had it not been for the awful defensive injuries they had to deal with. With a mixture of youth & experience I can see United winning back the title so I’m going with 1st this season
Ongoing story – Mike Ashley is still owner of the club despite the best efforts of the Geordie faithful to try and oust him from the club, the hatred for him was slightly forgotten by a successful season last season however you can bet if money isn’t spent and the club struggle the fans will turn on him first chance they get. With very little to no funds coming from the chairman Chris Houghton is having to try and get loan deals or free transfers
Dan Gosling (From Everton for free) a brilliant buy for Newcastle, although after his behaviour with Everton over his contract they will have to keep an eye on him in that respect. A versatile player that can play as a central midfielder, right midfielder, right full back or centre back, he played mainly as a box to box midfielder and could prove a good addition to the squad.
Sol Campbell (Free from Arsenal) After much speculation the ex Tottenham & Arsenal centre back signed for Newcastle, whilst he is a very experienced centre back age isn’t on his side and whilst he did a job for Arsenal last season I’m not sure if he can do it week in week out against some of the top players he will have to face. Time will tell though and Sol does have a habit of proving doubters wrong.
Nicky Butt (Free transfer/retired) He was released at the end of his contract under the impression he was going to retire however has recently been offered by Preston, either way age wasn’t on his side and he probably couldn’t keep up with the pace of the Premiership.
Key player – Joey Barton is a player who has shown lots of potential but has never been able to adjust his attitude accordingly, this could be his last chance with a Premiership club but he needs to take his chance. Alan Smith is also an important player for the team, covering every blade of grass for the team in midfield but Steven Taylor will be the key at the heart of the defence, if the team are going to stay up he needs to be at his very best
My expectations – This is basically the same team that got relegated in 07/08 except the fact they’ve lost Viduka, Owen & Martins, when players like Andy Carroll or Shola Ameobi where called up on they fell pretty short of the mark, I know it’s been a full season since then however I feel that a squad that has a backbone of Harper, Coloccini, Smith, Gutierrez & Ameobi could be in for a real struggle this season and I think they might be the 3rd team to go down in 18th place
Ongoing story – Stoke continue to defy their critics and have almost established themselves as a mid table premiership team. A Solid fan base with a sensible owner and manager things are very solid, Stoke will try pushing for a higher league spot but will always look over their shoulders to make sure they aren’t getting dragged in to a relegation battle.
Florent Cuvelier – (From Portsmouth for free) The 17 year old Belgium midfielder was wanted by top clubs up and down the country before signing for Stoke, not ready for first team action yet he’s one for the future and should be able to develop well at Stoke
Carlo Nash – (Free, unattached) Back up keeper who has had quite a few clubs, he’s brought in as cover for Sorensen & Begovic
Amdy Faye – (Free) released following injury problems, helped establish Stoke in the top flight but struggled last season with injuries
Andy Griffin – (Free to Reading) spent the second half of last season on loan with Reading after not playing for Stoke since his very public bust up with Ricardo Fuller, he settled in well at Reading and made the move permanent this summer
Key Player – Ryan Shawcross is the rock in the defence, a key player linked with top clubs but happy to stay at Stoke. His form was so good last season he was mentioned for an England place but the tackle on Aaron Ramsey seemingly put an end to that. Matthew Etherington is a key player going forward for the team, he’s one of their main attacking outlets and his trickery on the wings helps set up chances for the team
My Predictions – Stoke should be in mid table again this season, I don’t think they’ll be dragged in to a relegation battle and a finish between 10th & 12th this season should be considered a good season
Ongoing story – Steve Bruce will be looking to improve on last season, after starting the season so well Sunderland hit problems after the beach ball incident against Liverpool and whilst finishing comfortably in mid table they would have been hoping for a higher finish and will be going for it this season
Cristian Riveros (from Cruz Azul for free) – A hard working midfielder who can play on the left or in his preferred position in the middle, spent most of the world cup playing in the middle for Paraguay showing great stamina as well as scoring 2 goals against Slovakia, Steve Bruce has a record of signing good players in this mould & from this area so lots expected
Marcos Angeleri (from Estudiantes for £1.5m) – An Argentine right back who has good pace, 3 caps for Argentina under Maradona he was voted in the top-ten in the 2008 edition of the south American footballer of the year award. Will add an attacking option down the right and with his pace is good at tracking back and not being caught out
Titus Bramble (from Wigan for £1m) – enjoyed a revival under Bruce at Wigan before Bruce left, didn’t have a great season last season so will be hoping that re-joining his former boss will help him once again. On his day he’s good at reading the game and a solid tackler sadly his day doesn’t come as often as people thought it might when he was younger
Ahmed Al-Muhammadi (from ENPPI on loan) regarded as a future star for Egypt he’s come on loan the Sunderland for Bruce to take a closer look at him after already having him on trial, the deal has an option for a £2m purchase at the end. Originally a striker but now a tricky winger with a bit of pace about him as well the only questions seem to be over his temperament & end product.
Simon Mignolet (from Sint-Truidense, undisclosed but reports around £2m) Sunderland beat teams including PSV, Twente & Udinese to sign the young Belgian keeper. At only 21 he’d already made over 100 appearances for Sint-Truidense and 4 appearances for the national U-21 team as well before Sunderland came knocking, one for the future but big things expected from him back home
Darryl Murphy (to Celtic for undisclosed, rumoured around £1.5m), a striker who started well at Sunderland but was soon frozen out the squad before joining Ipswich on loan.
Myron Newsworthy (Sheffield United on loan) spent second half of last season on loan at Sheaf Utd and after being told he didn’t feature in Steve Bruce’s first team plans he’s returned on loan
Key Player – Craig Gordon was having a great season until he broke his arm against Spurs last year and he’s done the same in pre-season but if he can get back to full fitness he could be valuable, the same could be said of Lee Cattermole although he has to be careful with suspensions as well as injury but Darren Bent’s goals will be all important and Bruce will be praying he stays injury free.
My Prediction – Middle table is a must for Bruce to justify his spending, could see them finishing around 10th this season provided they don’t lose key players to injury