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The Red Devils

Rooney steps into Ronaldo-shaped hole

Many folk will have forgotten, but Manchester United last visited Munich less than a year ago for the pre-season AUDI Cup in late July. The Red Devils beat Boca Juniors 2-1 but lost the final 7-6 on penalties to Bayern. The significance of the results at the tournament was unclear at the time, not least because United were just setting out on their first post-Cristiano Ronaldo campaign.

After six productive seasons at Old Trafford, the 2008 World Player of the Year switched to Real Madrid for a record €93 million, but the revenue raised on the Portugal superstar was not reinvested in new players. United carry debts of a reported GBP 700 million (€780m), and interest payments had to be met. Apart from promoting a clutch of youth products to the senior squad, United added only Michael Owen (from Newcastle United, free transfer), and Ecuador shooting star Luis Antonio Valencia (from Wigan Athletic) for a reported €17m.

Shaky start

The sceptics seemed to be proved right in the early months of the campaign, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s reshaped team suffered a string of defeats, including reverses against Liverpool and Chelsea. Doubts grew as to the 18-time English champions’ ability to register a fourth successive Premier League triumph. United cruised through a Champions League group including CSKA Moscow, Wolfsburg and Besiktas, but were knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round by third-division Leeds, the Red Devils’ earliest cup exit in 26 years.