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Ruby Walsh exclusive: Manchester United are the team to beat

by Aidan Elder | August 17, 2012

Champion jockey and Manchester United fan, Ruby Walsh spoke exclusively to the Paddy Power Blog ahead of the Premier League season.

The Robin van Persie deal is brilliant for Manchester United. He’s a wonderful player and if he can continue his form of last year, he’ll be a huge help to United’s chances. The only concern is how he’ll link up with Wayne Rooney. Maybe there a bit too similar and he’ll be better suited playing with Danny Welbeck. Neither Rooney nor van Persie is an out and front man and they’re more creative than your typical striker.

There’s also the potential that they’ll just click and form a great partnership and I could be way off the mark, but I just think Danny Welbeck will be better suited to playing off Van Persie. Whatever way Sir Alex decides to use him, he’s a masterful player.

Signing another midfielder was the priority for me and although Shinji Kagawa was brought in, it’s still a weak area. Michael Carrick hasn’t been up to the job and that’s still a big issue for Ferguson. They were so reliant on Paul Scholes coming back last season. Until Fergie resurrected Scholesy last year, United were a pretty average side. He’s a world class player, but he’s not getting any younger.

I was at the Etihad for the crucial Manchester Derby and the big difference was in the middle of the park. Yaya Toure and the other City midfielders ran riot and that can’t be allowed to keep happening. With so many games and injuries, you do need a big squad and I’d like to see more midfielders at Fergie’s disposal.

One thing that’s been overlooked slightly since the Van Persie story broke is the return of Nemanja Vidic in defence. He’s a huge part of the team. Rio Ferdinand is struggling with injury more than ever and makes the odd mistake, but having Vidic alongside him makes him a better player. Behind them, I’m expecting David de Gea to have a better season this time around. He settled in well halfway through the season after a rocky start and he will be a lot stronger.

Much has been made of Manchester City not doing a whole lot in the transfer market, but with a squad like that, there is a point where you have to say ‘enough is enough’. They’ve already got so many big names, how is possible to accommodate even more? There’s a lot of talent, but also a lot of ego as well. You can almost feel the ego coming off the pitch. They’re a world class team, but temperament is hugely important and you’d have your doubts about some of the temperaments in the squad. Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli have proven to be volatile and they’ll test Mancini’s diplomacy skills again this year.

I’ve only worked for Sir Alex in the jockey/owner dynamic, but he’s been a pleasure to deal with. I’d imagine that’s different to the players in his squad, but I wouldn’t imagine he’s unfair to anyone. If you’re not swinging the lead, he’ll get on your case, but if you work hard, he leave you be. That’s what makes him such a good manager. United are the team to beat for me this season.

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