Opposition View: Man United

Last updated : 17 August 2007 By Ben Collins
What do you think of City's new owner?
I have no idea what to make of him, to be honest. There's plenty of accusations being thrown around, there's a warrant out for his arrest, so the easy thing to do would be to kick off over all that. In truth, though, if he's passed the Premier League's 'fit and proper person' test then they clearly think he's ok. He's certainly put his money where his mouth is and stumped up the cash for Sven, so you can see why City fans love him. And the whole Sinatra thing could only happen to City.

What do you make of the appointment of Sven?
As soon as it was announced, the combination of much-maligned Sven and the footballing circus that City have become seemed like it could be disastrous. The more thought you give it, though, it could turn out to be a masterstroke. He was excellent at club level and was linked strongly with replacing Sir Alex, among other roles. His time with England has unquestionably affected his reputation and I think it helped you land a very decent manager. He's great when the going's good, but we'll have to see what happens if you suffer a few defeats. Whether or not he can turn things around under that kind of pressure remains to be seen.

What do you make of our new signings?
I'll have to plead ignorance on most of them. Petrov always impressed me for Atletico Madrid, Geovanni went off the map after Barca and I've heard good things about Bojinov, but otherwise I'd never really heard of Elano et al. Weaving all those nationalities together will be a huge ask, but I think things are going well currently because it's an exciting new time and everyone at Eastlands is in the same boat really. A few defeats could change things, but you seem to have bought enough talent - from first impressions, at least - to substantially improve on last season's results and, most crucially, improve the standards of football you play.

More importantly, what do you make of your new signings?
Delighted. Tevez looks very much a potential fans' favourite. He certainly put in a hell of a shift at Fratton Park, chasing up and down the pitch after lost causes, which bodes well if he's supposed to be half-fit. Hargreaves is the man who should provide a little more defensive stability in Europe, but will also do well in the top-of-the-table clashes in the Premier League. As for Nani and Anderson, their arrival could mark an eventual shift in formation across the next two seasons, but they are very much two for the future. They both seem to have all the skill in the world, they just need to gradually acclimatise, and there's not many better places to do that than at United - surrounded by top talents who speak their language, and also plenty of players who have invaluable experience to pass on.

Can Tevez and Rooney play together (when Rooney's fit)?
I see where people can envisage problems, because they're both players who like to drop deep and play facing the goal. This season, though, I can see Rooney (when fit) being used as a more out-and-out striker, where he's always wanted to play. Even if he isn't, I think you may see a formational switch with those two and Ronaldo, Saha, Giggs, Nani or Anderson upfront in a 4-3-3 which constantly changes shape and switches positions during games. Unpredictability is one of the major attributes required in modern football, and United will look to use that to their advantage.

Could being without Rooney and Ronaldo be a blessing in disguise?
I don't think so, particularly. Even when they're having off days, either of them can just pull a rabbit out of the hat and grab a win for you. Take Ronaldo at Fulham last year, for example. They're two of the best players in the world, and I'd be much happier about Sunday's game if they were both available.

Your aims for this season?
Get back to winning ways in the Premier League and make a successful defence. It looks like we'll have to launch an old-school, come-from-behind run for the trophy like we always used to, rather than the perfect start we had been hoping for. I think we could have a decent chance of the Carling and FA Cups, down to the size of our squad and the number of excellent youngsters (Pique, Evans, Gibson) we've got. Europe is still the elusive target, however. I don't want to tempt fate, but I think we're better equipped than last year, just because of the size and quality of the squad. Last year the final was between two teams who were able to concentrate solely on that competition. We're never going to do that, but hopefully we have enough strength in depth and a lot of luck with injuries to facilitate a season of competing on all fronts. If you're going to have a dream, you might as well make it a big one...

How do you think we'll do?
Safe by Christmas, make decent progress in at least one Cup and, if the feelgood factor continues, you may just about sneak into Europe. The problem could be that a number of clubs like Blackburn, Newcastle, Portsmouth etc have bought well, so your games against those kind of teams will be key to where you end up.

And your prediction for Sunday?
Derbies are hard enough to predict at the best of times. Throw into the mix our absentees, your feelgood factor and a massive amount of confusion over who will actually be playing, then it's anybody's guess. Totally ignoring all those issues, however, and just looking at the circumstances surrounding the game, I wouldn't be at all surprised if we scored first, then you pegged us back and it ended up being 1-1. Having said that, even without Rooney and Ronaldo we should still have the skill and familiarity of playing together to win. If we can catch you cold with an early goal then there's no reason we can't come home with all three points. But who knows? At least, with all the new talent on the pitch, there might be a little room for a touch more skill than usual, but it'll be tight, hard-fought, stomach-clenching, voice-straining 'fun', as it always is.