After a poor season Manchester United had, with David Moyes during the 2013-14 season, the fans had many questions. Who would be the new manager? Would he be another Moyes flop? The Scotsman seemed like a good manager but not the right coach up to United’s standards. Louis Van Gaal arrived and changed everything around.
The likes of defensive trio Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand left the club before the Dutchman had the opportunity to introduce himself in the middle of July. This just reiterated how hard of a task he had to face already, a broken team with an inexperienced defence. Due to Van Gaal managing Netherlands at the World Cup last summer, it meant the start of his work had to be delayed until late-July. The club spent the most money in the Premier League, signing the likes of Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Angel Di María and Marcos Rojo, as well as Daley Blind and Radamel Falcao (on a loan deal).
Any Manchester United supporter must have been worried that the club had spent around £60million on three players whose main positions were all at left-back (Shaw, Rojo and Blind). Rojo and Blind though, have an edge of versatility to their game; as the Argentinian can play in the centre of defence and Blind can play at both centre-back and in a central defensive midfield role.
With all of the defensive issues at the club, it’d be a surprise to suggest that the red half of Manchester would be immediately challenging for the Premier League title, but instead wanted to establish themselves in the top four of the league again. A lot can be said about how well the campaign went overall, but also in how many matches United’s strikers have failed to show their world-class abilities. Tottenham are currently sixth in the league, compared to United in fourth (55 goals this season) – a surprise given many at the start of the campaign would have predicted a similar number between 40 and 50 for Falcao, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie to score between them. They’ve got an underwhelming 26 between the three of them, which just highlights how much of a let-down they’ve been collectively.
At the start of the season, Van Gaal brought in the 3-5-2 system which he’d previously used to good effect with Holland in Brazil last summer, guiding the Oranje to a third placed finish, respectable for an established international team that have struggled in the major tournaments recently. However, it was initially difficult to implement that style of play at the start of life at Old Trafford, taking him four games to win his first league game. The 3-5-2 formation did not work for many reasons, including the fact that United do not yet have a world-class centre-back who can take the ball forward into midfield. Second of all, the system is mainly defensive with wing-backs used to support the three defenders when the team are out of possession, but United’s philosophy is all about attacking as opposed to defending for the majority of the game. Lastly, the first-team players were introduced to the formation very late with only a few weeks to adapt to the drastic changes in system, meaning that a few players had more than one role during the match, or were forced to play in an unfamiliar role which had an effect on their performances.
Unless a Merseyside miracle saves Liverpool, Van Gaal has helped the Red Devils to qualify for a UEFA Champions League place once again with a solid top four finish this season, despite his team totalling over 70 injuries to first-team players this season. He was forced to promote youth players, such as Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett, because he had no other options – and after a few months the team started to find some decent form, going on a ten-match undefeated streak.
Many United supporters would want the club to sign up to four or five players in the upcoming summer transfer window. I personally believe that they need to bring in; a centre-back, right-back, central defensive midfielder, centre midfielder and lastly, a striker. From the positions listed, you can assume that Manchester United will spend between £100 and £150million pounds, just like they did last year. Last week, the club confirmed they had reached an agreement with PSV Eindhoven for Dutch winger Memphis Depay, showing that Louis Van Gaal is not waiting for the transfer window to start, wanting to buy his targets as soon as he can so they can officially join the club when the window starts in the first week of July, before transfer values increase even more.
The biggest question of them all: Will the Dutchman win the Premier League in his second year at United?
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