Manchester United are lucky to have had a great recent history of Goalkeepers. Schmeichel and van der Sar endeared themselves to the Red Devils' supporters as some of the finest shot-stoppers of the new age. The #1 shirt and gloves for United is no joke, and those who wear it will be able to tell you of the unbelievable amount of pressure they carry on their shoulders to do a worthy job.
For some, David's most valuable asset is his seemingly limitless potential. There is no doubt that he has the potential to be one of the best goalkeepers of his generation. A tried and tested shot-stopper with incredible reflexes, he favours holding his line rather than rushing out to deal with threats. His distribution has also become known to United Fans as first class, and he will be contesting Lindegaard for the place between the sticks come the Premier League season.
Lindegaard is perhaps in more prime age for a keeper, and his experience is sometimes more evident than it is in the younger De Gea. He is thought to have a stronger wrist and better communication skills, and it will be interesting to see whether he can wrestle the position from De Gea and make use of his consistency.
Christian Ronaldson's Verdict: "Perhaps not as strong as seasons gone for Manchester United, but I do think De Gea could rank himself at least 3rd or 4th this season. It's very, very easy for a great keeper to have a terrible season, and De Gea will have the benefit of a very steady rearguard at Manchester United so don't expect him to make a meal of things. If he performs then he will go even higher, but the likes of Hart, Cech and Lloris will be in the mix for their clubs."
The proverbial #2 and #3 for Manchester United have been key components in many of their successes. Sir Alex Ferguson favoured defesively sound fullbacks over the attacking wing-backs that most others seem to be catching wind of. The side-backs will be very important in keeping the rearguard out of the reach of tricky wingers.
Joining from the now filthy-rich Monaco in the wake of Gabriel Heinze's departure, Evra has equipped himself well at Manchester United. While he has lost some of the exhilirating pace and energy of his younger days, few could dismiss his vitality and commitment. Great in the air for someone so slight, as well as strong and experienced in the challenge- Patrice will be hoping to roll out another marathon-season of consistency for the Red Devils before his age catches up with him.
Another remnant of Sir Alex's Reign, Buttner will have a lot to prove to contend for that left-back birth with Evra. He impressed scouts at Vitesse and now has the chance to make something of himself, having joined for little in excess over £4.4million.
From the get-go, it was always clear that the twins Fábio and Rafael had great potential. They were smallish, slight and a bit brittle for the Premier League and have endured struggling claims to the wing-back roles they desire. Rafael however, had his progress accelerated a little more after Brown and O'Shea departed and Neville began to fade. Few could dispute that he is one of the hottest prospects in the League, and Old Trafford look forward to his rapid development.
De Sciglio has some weight on his shoulders, hailing from Italy- a country known for producing some top quality defenders over the years. And while it may be a little early to draw comparisons, his tall figure, diligent marking abilities and maturity on the ball make him an exciting addition the the Reds' squad this season.
John Stewart's Verdict: "I'm not convinced that Manchester United's full-backs are particularly strong this season. Going forward, yes, they may be of a greater threat than previous seasons, but Buttner and Rafael for me seem a bit naive in their defending. Evra has lost half a yard with age, and Sciglio is only young. Then again, there is always the possibility that they all play well."
Time and time again it has been proven that, for a successful title-winning side, the rearguard is where the money should be. Ultimately, if you do not concede goals, you do not lose games, and Cantona will have this notion firmly planted in his head once he has reviewed the protection he has at his disposal.
Club captain, and retired Serbian International, Nemanja Vidic- can claim to be no less than a World Class Centreback. Dominant in the air, uncompromising in the challenge, and a good reader of the flow of play, the influencial centre half will look to impose himself as one of the first names on the teamsheet this season.
Most fans appreciate a touch of class to their graft in central defenders, and Rio offers that in bucket-fulls. Mature, and experienced- the intelligenc stalwart will be hoping to re-assert himself as one of the league's top defenders. He will be able to provide his undivided attention to the Red Devils' rearguard, amidst rumours of a fallout with Roy Hodgson on the front of international duties.
It took a longer time for fans to warm to Jonny's efforts. The Northern-Irish defender enjoyed massive bounds in his development in recent years and become one of the most collected centre-halves around. Capable of playing across the back four, and accomplished on his weaker foot- he has proven to be one of Man Utd's most consistent defenders when called upon. Evans combines a composed interpretation of the position with a decent range of passing and good aerial ability.
Smalling has had a mixed reception in the early stages of his Reds' career. While there is little doubt that he is a competent defender, with confidence on and off the ball as well as being well-equipped in pace and aerial physicality-- he has struggled to eradicate errors from his game and really break through an already heavily packed position. Nevertheless he remains one of England's brightest prospects and a future great for Old Trafford if given time.
Swash-buckling and bucaneering in his debut season for Manchester United, 'Big Phil' won over a lot of hearts for his never-say-die and no-nonsense defending, in combination with his energetic gung-ho charges into the attack. Still very, very young, the enforcer that Sir Alex Ferguson tipped as having the potential to be "one of United's greatest ever players" will need to smooth out his rough edges and errors. While his aerial ability is lacking and his positional intelligence is suspect, there is no doubting the potential Jones has.
Joe Whittaker's Verdict: "I think it's strange that Manchester United doesn't normally set the standards for the league's top defence because they are clearly one of the best in this department. If not one of the best, they certainly boast great depth and a good mixture of experience and talent. Cantona may be able to make good use of this. The French have produced some fantastic defenders over the years, so perhaps he brings some of this knowledge with him."
There are often instances where revered critics, and experts in the sport, have remarked time and time again about the importance of winning the midfield battle. With a brilliant midfield you can set out to dominate games and threaten opposition defences from deep. A great midfield has also been labeled as one of the key catalysts to creating a style of play that is attractive. With the promises that Eric Cantona made in the off-season, we can expect that he will pay due attention to the midfield.
The #6 position in any given case is normally a thankless task in midfield, and is pobably one of the positions in which work goes most unnoticed. But with the fading of Giggs and Scholes and injuy problems of Fletcher, Carrick has grown to be a pivotal figure in the Mancunian set-up. Composed on the ball, decisive and graceful with his distribution- the holding midfielder will be looking to garner more of a reputation for being one of United's unsung heroes.
For the #6 position there is usually two types of midfielder. Holding midfielders, defensive midfielders (destroyers). The Scottich captain certainly fits into the latter and is arguably the midfielder that best compliments Carrick. Combining an assertive challenge with brilliant distribution- he will be looking to finally put his illness and problems behind him to cement a berth in Cantona's team.
Recent times have seen Scholes in a more withdrawn role, dictating play from deep and ensuring that Manchester United maintain both dominance and possession. Hailed by many former players and lovers of the game as one of the finest midfielders of his generation, the diminuitive ginger-haired genius will look to make his final hurrah. While he still has the gift of his golden pass and goal-threat from midfield positions, few would argue that he is several shades off his glory days and will welcome the opportunity to see him leave on a high note.
The Welsh Wing-Wizard has continued to dazzle fans and neutrals since the Premier League's inception. And at this late age he continues to do so, having moved into a more central role to compensate his fading speed but promote his experience and creativity. A recent extension will mean that we can see his genius for at least two more seasons.
Arguably a more dynamic heir to the united Midfield than Carrick, Cleverley has versatility, a good delivery from wide positions, and an energetic approach to add to his repetoire of talents. Having progressed through the ranks of Manchester United and finally made it big, he'll have every reason to want to impose himself and make himself a mainstay in the squad as midfielders like Butt and Scholes have done before him. In addition to being a highly-rated prospect for United, he is also one of the few ball-playing midfielders that England have to look forward to on the wider stage. Iy will be important for him to play regularly and impress if he is to book a ticket on the flight to Brazil in a couple years time.
Part of a Newcastle side that shocked the League with it's surging deveopment and captured 5th position to seal a place in Europe for the following season. He played a key role in linking defence and attack, with excellent distribution, dogged work off the ball and ability from range and indeed in dead-ball situations. Whils he doesn't boast physique or an imposing stature, many will argue that he is close to being a complete midfielder and will certainly be an asset to Cantona's team.
Another traditional #6, Sandro has already won over plenty of fans at White Hart Lane for his tenacious work in midfield and energetic displays on and off the ball. Cantona himself touted him as having the potential to be one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, and while it is no easy feat, Sandro has all the tools to make it. His rugged approach may take some fine tuning before he becomes the complete article, and there is no doubt that he will gain invaluable lessons in ball retention from the masters that are Fletcher, Carrick and Scholes.
Japan have enjoyed something of a recent resurgence into one of the top footballing nations in the world. In Asia at the very least they are arguably ahead of Australia and South Korea in both quality and craft, and at the heart of this new wave has been Dortmund's former star- Shinji Kagawa. Fans of Borussia Dortmund have sung his praises for classy performances from attacking midfield, and he even managed to rack up a very impressive goal tally while playing for the German Champions. With the experience he has had on the international stage, and winning trophies with Dortmund- the transition into United's line-up should prove relatively easy.
Mike Powell's Verdict: "I think with Kagawa coming in from Ferguson, and Cabaye, Sandro being added through Cantona- Manchester United finally step in the right direction with regards to quality in the midfield. Which is ever more important now considering Carrick is enjoying his best years, whilst Giggs and Scholes continue to grow older. I don't think they are quite the best up thre yet, because I fancy the midfielders that the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City have- but it is certainly a positive movement on that front."