Predictions…and wishes for United in 2011

Making football predictions must be one of the most pointless exercises of all. Most of them are only mere wishes or are purely based on gut feelings. But it’s the first day of a new year so it’s a practice that has come to be expected. After all no harm can be done except for the risk of ending up with egg splattered all over the face. Here goes with each ‘guess’ being identified as either a wish or a prediction in no particular order of priority. Football fortunes can turn very quickly and only time will tell whether even one of these ten turn out to be correct. One of them is likely to be highly controversial so let’s get it out of the way first up.

Making football predictions must be one of the most pointless exercises of all. Most of them are only mere wishes or are purely based on gut feelings. But it’s the first day of a new year so it’s a practice that has come to be expected. After all no harm can be done except for the risk of ending up with egg splattered all over the face. Here goes with each ‘guess’ being identified as either a wish or a prediction in no particular order of priority. Football fortunes can turn very quickly and only time will tell whether even one of these ten turns out to be correct. One of them is likely to be highly controversial so let’s get it out of the way first up.

1. PREDICTION: PFA Player of the Year – Dimitar Berbatov. If some of you can stop chuckling for a moment let me explain why. Fellow players place their votes next month which is ridiculously early but it means that Berba only has to maintain his current form for a few more weeks to be amongst the favourites.

More importantly, Berbatov is the type of player that fellow professionals appreciate far more than most football fans do making him likely to pick up a lot of their votes. On the other hand, a Manchester United player has won the award for the last four years and the odds of a fifth have to be stacked against him. Nevertheless, a small wager on Berbatov could turn out to be a good bet.

2. PREDICTION: Premier League Winners – Manchester United. Not surprising is it? Promises to be a three, possibly even a five team dogfight until the very last whistle. United go into the New Year having lost at least five points fewer than anyone else with a wily manager who knows exactly what it takes to win a title race. Sir Alex is likely to the most potent weapon in United’s arsenal.

3. PREDICTION: Champions League Winners – Manchester United. With a couple of  major provisos. IF United reach the Wembley Final on May 28 and IF it’s not against another Premier League club – otherwise it will be a toss up. The reason is that English clubs simply DO NOT lose finals at Wembley. Two European Cup Finals have involved English clubs in London with United and Liverpool winning both while West Ham won the only Cup Winners Cup Final in 1965. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or anyone else will NOT defeat an English team at Wembley and United are the most likely to get there – thanks to Sir Alex. But Cup competitions luck of the draw is notoriously fickle  and there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do about it.

4. PREDICTION: Premier League Top Goalscorer – Dimitar Berbatov. The Wedding Mc Jokebook

rong>The Bulgarian is on top of the heap at the half way mark but can he continue his run? Absolutely. On the other hand he has also shown that a number of games can go by without hitting the net but in such a tightly contested title race, 25 Premier League goals can go pretty close to being enough. Berba is well on the way to reaching that target, it’s now a matter of maintaining his ratio.

5. PREDICTION: The Glazer family to sell the club around mid year! OK, that might be partly wishful thinking but I’m convinced that preparations are being made for new owners to come in during 2011, if not by the middle of the year then very soon afterwards. Why? Old man Malcolm’s health is reported to have rendered him virtually incapacitated  while his children must be spooked after witnessing the Hicks and Gillett fiasco at Liverpool. I still cannot help a gut feeling however that this may be a case of better the devil you know.

6. PREDICTION: The Premier League unbeaten run will end when least expected. I cannot see United going through a whole season undefeated. Sir Alex admitted as much, it has to come to an end at some stage and while I expect the home record to remain intact, an away defeat must be inevitable. Will it be against one of our title challengers? Not likely because it usually happens when least expected. Remember the early defeat at relegation bound Burnley last season? History may well repeat itself.

7. PREDICTION: Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes to remain for at least one more season. The almost certain retirement of Edwin van der Sar and Gary Neville will encourage Ferguson to retain the two veterans rather than lose four squad members in one hit. Will it be a wise decision? Most definitely. Giggs and Scholes have much to offer in a long season where their selective use can be invaluable.

8. WISH: For United to be eliminated early from the FA Cup even if it means defeat by Liverpool! There’s much bigger fish to fry with the Premier and Champions Leagues now pretty much the only two titles worth winning. A cup run can be no more than a costly, needless distraction.  The only time I regret not seeing our captain lifting the cup is when United are either in the final itself or when another unlikely Treble is on the line. A repeat of the 1999 miracle has become almost impossible to achieve.

9. WISH: Tom Cleverley to come back to Old Trafford in January. His time at Wigan has been valuable but it’s now time for him to come home where he will be a significant addition to United’s midfield options. It’s Ferguson’s call of course and his judgement can never be questioned by us mere mortals.

10. WISH: For United to win at least one of the two major titles so that those pundits who kept crying that this Manchester United squad is below standard and will not win anything can be shut up once and for all. For Ferguson to be vindicated when he said pre season that “I’m happy with the squad I have. Why spend millions on someone who is no better than what I’ve already got?”

Is there still anyone who can possibly question the great man’s judgement?

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Frank Scicluna
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