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Season preview: Manchester United

With a new man in charge for the first time in 27 years, Sports Mole looks over the season ahead for Manchester United.

With the Premier League season beginning this weekend, Sports Mole casts its eye over champions Manchester United's summer and their prospects for the 2013-14 campaign under the guidance of new manager David Moyes.

In:

Guillermo Varela (Penarol, £1m)

Out:

Reece Brown (Released), John Cofie (Released), Michele Fornasier (Released), Luke Giverin (Released), Luke Hendrie (Released), Luke McCullough (Released), Gyliano Van Velzen (Released), Freddie Veseli (Released), Paul Scholes (Retired), Sean McGinty (Sheffield United, Free)

Last Season: Champions

Manager: David Moyes

Three key players:


David De Gea of Manchester United throws the ball down field during the FA Cup match against Chelsea on April 1, 2013© Getty Images
David de Gea - During his first six months in England, the young Spanish goalkeeper was seen as a real weak link for United. As a result, the opposition would pepper his penalty area with lofted passes in the hope that their centre-forwards would benefit from De Gea's reluctance to claim the ball. Having grafted under the guidance of the now departed coach Eric Steele, the 22-year-old is no longer a soft touch. He proved as much at Upton Park last season when he took a clattering from Andy Carroll. In a defence that is often altered due to injuries, De Gea will be looked to for continuity between the posts. It will also be interesting to see if his style has been altered in any way under the guidance of new goalkeeping coach Chris Woods.


Michael Carrick© PA Photos
Michael Carrick - After Robin van Persie, United fans sang Carrick's name more than any other player last term, such was the quality of his performances in a red shirt. Like a fine wine, Carrick seems to be getting better with age. He has always been a neat and tidy footballer who can keep possession, but he has had much more of an influence on matches over the last 12 months. It's no secret that the Red Devils still remain light in terms of personnel in the midfield department and so as it stands, a lot of the onus will be on the England international to produce the goods again over the upcoming campaign.


Robin van Persie of Manchester United celebrates as he scores their fourth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United on May 19, 2013© Getty Images
Robin van Persie - Simply put, United would not have been going into this season as defending champions had they not signed Van Persie from Arsenal last August. Even with a goal drought during the second part of the campaign, the Dutchman still found the net 30 times in all competitions. Depending upon how the ongoing Wayne Rooney saga ends, Van Persie may be required to add even more this term if United are to keep pace with their fellow challengers at the top.

First game: Swansea City (A), Complete fixture list

Sports Mole says: The bookmakers rarely get it wrong and at this moment in time, they regard Moyes's men as third favourites to win the title. They may be champions, but Chelsea and Manchester City have improved their squads, while United are yet to bring in a senior recruit. It is the midfield where they yearn for bolstering, particularly after their advances for Cesc Fabregas were rebuffed by both the player and Barcelona. Signing a midfielder or two would bring United back into the leading pack, but without the necessary arrivals, they may fall short. You couldn't write United off under Sir Alex Ferguson, only time will tell if the same can be said about the club with Moyes at the helm.

Predicted finish: Third

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Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea during the Champions League clash with Real Madrid on March 5, 2013
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City32235467234474
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd32199464352966
3Leicester CityLeicester31175955371856
4Liverpool32167954371755
5West Ham UnitedWest Ham32167953421155
6Chelsea31159750311954
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs321481054371750
8Everton31147104340349
9Arsenal32137124436846
10Leeds UnitedLeeds32143154950-145
11Aston Villa301351243331044
12Wolverhampton WanderersWolves32118133241-941
13Crystal Palace31108133352-1938
14Southampton31106153956-1736
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle3298153553-1835
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton31712123338-533
17Burnley3289152645-1933
18Fulham33512162543-1827
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom3159172859-3124
RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd3242261756-3914

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