Manchester United Season Guide

August 9, 2003
By Dominic Raynor
(Archive)

Manchester United

Nickname: The Red Devils
Founded: 1878
Ground: Old Trafford, Sir Matt Busby Way, Manchester, M16 0RA
Capacity: 67,000
Ticket Office: (0161) 226 2224 (ticket office); (0161) 227 9229 (dial-a-seat)
Club Colours:
Home - Red shirts, white shorts, black socks
Away - Black shirts, black shorts, black and white socks


Top Links

Soccernet's Manchester United page | Full squad | Fixture list

Soccernet's Manchester United Correspondent

Official Manchester United Website

Unofficial site - Red Issue

Fan site - Man Utd Online

Last Season - Recovery time Position: Champions

Picture: GaryMPrior/GettyImages

A slow start to the season saw Manchester United win only two of their first six fixtures and gave Sir Alex Ferguson's critics plenty of ammunition to support their theory that the Scot had made a mistake in ditching his retirement plans. When United lost 3-1 to arch-rivals Manchester City at Maine Road in November it appeared the doom sayers were correct - but the derby setback turned out to be to catalyst for the Red Devils' season as they went on to beat title rivals Newcastle, Liverpool and Arsenal in successive matches. Ferguson then gambled on sending a number of injured players for operations, including captain Roy Keane, in the hope that they would return for the season's run in. The punt paid off and United overturned a double figure deficit to beat Arsenal to the Premiership crown as Ruud van Nistelrooy also scooped the top scorer accolade. Reports of a furious Fergie kicking a boot at David Beckham's high profile face were forgotten. In Europe, United again made the quarter-finals of the Champions League - but Real Madrid ousted them in an entertaining tie.

Transfers - In and Out
Coming In:
Cristiano Ronaldo (Sporting) - £12.24m
Jose Kleberson (A Paranaense) - £5.93m
Eric Djemba-Djemba (Nantes) - £3.5m
Tim Howard (Metro Stars) - £2.3m
David Bellion (Sunderland) - Tribunal









  • On The Move - All the transfers
  • Getting Out:
    David Beckham (R Madrid) - £17.5m
    Juan Veron (Chelsea) - £15m
    Danny Webber (Watford) - Nominal
    David May (Burnley) - Free
    Lee Roche (Burnley) - Free
    Luke Chadwick (Burnley) - Loan
    Bojan Djordjic (RS Belgrade) - Loan
    Ricardo (R Santander) - Loan
    Michael Stewart (N Forest) - Loan
    John Cogger - Released
    Kalam Mooniaruck - Released
    John Rankin - Released
    Laurent Blanc - Retired

    First Choice XI

    14-Tim Howard; 2-Gary Neville, 6-Rio Ferdinand, 27-Mikael Silvestre, 22-John O'Shea; 16-Roy Keane, 8-Nicky Butt; 20-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, 18-Paul Scholes, 11-Ryan Giggs; 10-Ruud van Nistelrooy.

    The Gaffer - Sir Alex Ferguson

    Picture: LaurenceGriffiths/GettyImages

    A trophyless 2001/02 season prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to postpone retirement, sign a three-year deal and resume his rivalry with Double winning Gunners boss Arsene Wenger. After a slow start to the 2002/03 campaign Sir Alex came from behind to win his eighth Premiership title and force Arsenal to eat their arrogant boasts with a large slice of humble pie. That was the latest chapter in a management career that began with East Stirlingshire in July 1974 before moving on to St Mirren to win the Scottish Division One title. That success was enough to secure the managership at Aberdeen and Govan-born Ferguson won SPL titles and six cups in eight seasons - the pick of which was the 1983 European Cup Winners' Cup. After taking temporary control of Scotland at the 1986 World Cup, Ferguson then joined Manchester United. The club wanted a return to the glory days and after a shaky start Ferguson lead his side to FA Cup, European Cup Winners' Cup and League Cup titles in successive campaigns. Then in the inaugural season of the Premiership, 1992/93, the Scot won the championship - something United had not achieved for 26 years. He went on to win seven more Premiership titles and three FA Cups, but the pinnacle came during the 1998/99 season when United won an unprecedented treble of the Premiership, the FA Cup and the Champions League.

    Player to Watch - Tim Howard

    Picture: ShaunBotterill/GettyImages

    Hailed by many as the best player at the NY/NJ Metrostars, Tim Howard joined Manchester United for £2.3million following a summer of speculation that suggested World Cup winner Fabien Barthez's days were numbered at Old Trafford. The flamboyant Frenchman is still with United, but 6' 3" former basketball player Howard is expected to be pushing for a starting place. Howard made his debut in the pre-season 4-1 defeat of Juventus at the Metrostars' Giants Stadium and impressed enough to keep his place against Barcelona - pulling off a excellent athletic save from a Xavi free-kick - to prompt Ferguson to confirm: 'He will definitely compete for the No.1 jersey.' The 24 year-old made his international debut for the USA against Ecuador in 2002, keeping a clean sheet, and spent the off-season training with Feyenoord before United came knocking on his door. The MLS Aquafina Goalkeeper of the Year is considered one of the hottest prospects in world football. Famously suffers from Tourette Syndrome.

    Young Gun - Darren Fletcher

    Picture: AlexLivesey/GettyImages

    Darren Fletcher is a young Scot being tipped to break into the United first team this season after making his debut in the Champions League against FC Basle, then facing Deportivo La Coruna, last term. He is probably the best of the current crop of Manchester United youngsters. The 19-year-old signed a full contract in April 2003 and has already been likened to the departed Beckham. The attacking midfielder travelled with the squad for their pre-season tour of the USA, playing a part in every game, and replaced Juan Sebastian Veron against Juventus before claiming a starting place on the right wing for the 3-1 defeat of Barcelona. He still has some way to go before making a big impact but this season could be a vital stepping stone.

    From the terraces

    Despite the doom mongering in certain quarters of the press, we don't feel too worried about the absence of David Beckham this season. We still have a strong enough team to win the Championship and will most likely be there or thereabouts come next May.

    Fergie has hinted in the press that this season could see the latest product of our youth setup, highly rated Scot Darren Fletcher, step up to first team action. If he does as well as John O'Shea did last year, no-one will be disappointed.

    By Red Issue.


    Despite much of the media believing United are in crisis following the exits of David Beckham and Juan Sebastian Veron, there is little sign of panic amongst most United fans over the double departure.

    Indeed, it will be a relief in a way to see the back of the great Beckham circus, whilst personally I have never forgiven Veron for his gutless performance in the last ever Maine Road derby last season.

    Whilst I wouldn't have minded a wide right midfielder and perhaps another defender to be added to the squad this summer, it has to be said that Sir Alex's signings seem pretty shrewd.

    The worrying thing for me - and it is a worry that often keeps me awake at night - is where would we be if Ruud van Nistelrooy picked up a serious injury. Let's face it, without the 'Flat Track Bully' we wouldn't be champions now.

    We should finish in the top three, yet with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle United all capable of pushing us all the way this term, we are certainly set for an exciting season.

    By Paul Meadows, from Fans FC.


    Despite not getting the anticipated high profile summer signing, United have bought well so far and the squad in fairly strong. Defensively we are in good shape now and despite losing Beckham and Veron, the midfield is still good enough to cope with another title challenge.

    Perhaps the only area for concern is in attack, if United lose Ruud Van Nistelrooy for any lengthy period there is no one capable of playing in that lone role up front, particularly in Europe.

    Richard Selby, Soccernet's Manchester United Correspondent

  • Have your say on the Manchester United Message Board

    Best - Champions Worst - Second Place

    David Beckham has left for Real Madrid and at the time of writing United have not signed a 'star' to replace him. David Bellion and Ole Gunner Solksjaer have done the job on the right-hand side successfully in pre-season - and in Ole's case the big games towards the end of last season - and United have enough fire power for the club not to rush into the transfer market following the Ronaldinho saga. With or without a big name replacement to add to the current additions - Cameroon international Eric Djemba-Djemba, French youngster Bellion, World Cup winner Kleberson, subject to a work permit, and United States international Tim Howard - the Red Devils may once again set the benchmark, but a new signing would be a welcome bonus for the club.

  • Any thoughts? Email Dominic Raynor.