As usual at this time of year, critics and fans are falling over each other to write off Man United’s chances of winning anything this season. In fact it’s impossible not to discuss the matter with anyone without the words ‘You’re just not the same team without Ronaldo‘ waltzing into the conversation.

Well no, we’re not. And I for one am more than happy about that. We now have 11 players contributing to team performance. We have Wayne Rooney, a big game player recently reborn and with something to prove. We have wingers and wingbacks now that we’ve dropped the drab 4-3-3 formation that was stifling our game. Admittedly the jury is still out on Nani and Valencia, but we’ve already seen flashes of what they’re capable of, and not just as extras in the video for ‘Thriller’.

We have one of the best central midfielders in the premiership in Darren Fletcher – a skillful fighter in the mould of Roy Keane, before he lost his invincible aura by guiding Ipswich to the nether-regions of the Championship relegation zone.

The two areas for me where we’re most likely to struggle are in goal, with Foster looking a little suspect, and in the centre of the park, which was where it all went terribly wrong against Barcelona in May. With Fletcher out, Carrick and Anderson look too lightweight, Giggs and Scholes too slow and Park too erratic. What we really need is for Owen Hargreaves to make a full recovery. As long as he does and we keep improving, we’ll be laughing all the way to the trophy cabinet as usual.

What we are lacking this season is a selfish, lazy Portuguese mercenary as the focal point of our team. Obviously no-one’s pretending he’s not a great player, but believe it or not teams were winning matches long before Ronaldo came along. And not just against West Brom and Hull. Rooney looks to be the big game player Ronaldo never was – big teams make him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

I like a white kit,” Ronaldo quipped to gathered reporters a year ago, “The white kit of the national team that is”. Well there’s one kit that won’t be getting too dirty this summer.

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