By Andy Hyslop
- We are at the half-way stage of the season
- Here’s our half-term report for Louis Van Gaal and his players
The full-time whistle on Monday night signalled the half-way stage of Manchester United’s season. We assess where United are in terms of the club’s perceived targets for the 2015/16 season.
The target for Manchester United last season was surely to finish in the top four of the Premier League and return to the Champions League. That was achieved with a fourth place finish, meaning United would have to go through a play-off to reach the group stages of the Champions League.
The target at the start of this season must have been to make they reach at least the group stages of the Champions League. Whilst also mounting a challenge to win the Premier League and improve on last season’s fourth place finish.
Following a poor run of results, United head into the second-half of the season sat sixth in the league table despite spending the majority of the season in the top four positions.
United have taken just three points from the last six league games, that run has seen them drop out of the top four and they could have been as low as 10th in the table had they suffered defeat to Chelsea on Monday night.
United have really struggled for goals this season, managing just 22 goals from their 19 league games so far. That really needs to improve if United are going to finish higher than their current position come the end of season.
The United defence has been fairly solid and they currently have the joint second best defence in the Premier League.
The match against Chelsea saw both Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin returning to the starting line-up after suspension and injury. If United are going to challenge for at least a top four finish, I feel this pair need to be regular features in Louis Van Gaal’s starting eleven.
Overall this Premier League season is one of most open league’s we have seen for years. With Leicester currently joint top of the league with Arsenal. Manchester United have already lost five games this season and can’t afford to lose many more.
If United can add some more goals to their team and start to string a run of victories together, then the Red Devils can mount a challenge for that top four place and maybe even the title.
Louis Van Gaal has come under pressure for his job recently and it looks like the board is supporting their man, though if we don’t see an improvement in results in league position in the next few months that may change.
A fourth place finish in the Premier League last season, meant United would enter the Champions League in the final play-off round.
United faced a two-legged tie against Club Brugge in the play-off round, a 3-1win at Old Trafford and 4-0 victory in Brugge saw United reach the group stages.
United were drawn against PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and VF Wolfsburg in the group stages. The first game of the group stages, saw Luke Shaw suffering a horrific injury which will probably rule him out for the season and could well be the turning point of United’s season.
In the early stages of the season, Shaw had been showing the form that convinced United to sign him from Southampton. Before his injury, Shaw had been part of an unchanged back four.
I believe the injury to Shaw has had a big effect on United’s performances this season. the presence of Shaw eased the pressure on Darmian to attack and Shaw had struck a strong relationship with Memphis on the left-hand side. who has struggled in his first season with United
Wins over Wolfsburg and Moscow meant a win over PSV at Old Trafford on matchday five would see United through to the knockout stages.
A o-o draw and a 3-2 defeat to Wolfsburg would see United out of the Champions League and entering into the Europa League come February.
Surely the minimal target was to reach the group stages and that was achieved but United would have been looking to progress into the knockout stages.
You would have to say that Manchester United’s season has been below average so far and their is plenty of room for improvement.
The minimal target in the Premier League is a top four finish and given United’s current position in the Premier League, United need to turn the 0-0 draws into victories and can’t afford to lose many more games.
Goals is the main objective Louis Van Gaal and his team in 2016, whilst still remaining just as solid at the back. United may have to dip into the transfer market in their search to find the attacking edge they required.
No doubt there will be plenty of names linked with moves to Old Trafford in the next month or so but we will just have to watch this space.
The Champions League campaign can be looked on as nothing more than a disappointment, having spent a year out of the competition, United must have been hoping to make it the group stages.
United fans shouldn’t look down their noses at the Europa League. United are building a new team and to win any competition will do no harm to the current squad.
I feel its a opportunity for the playing squad to gain more European experience and if United can reach the latter stages of the competition. A win in the competition would gain United qualification for the Champions League.
So the overall verdict on Louis Van Gaal and his squad of players is must make big improvements in the second half of the 2015/16 season.