- What will be the starting eleven on the opening of the season?
- How many of the new arrivals will feature?
- Who has impressed Van Gaal in pre-season
The season is fast approaching. Just one more friendly match to play stateside before Old Trafford opens its doors for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur for the first match of the Barclays Premier League season.
An air of anticipation is building in the bones of Manchester United supporters. How will the team do? How many trophies will Van Gaal be bringing to the red side of Manchester in his second season in the spotlight?
How quickly will the new signings settle? So many questions still to be answered. But for now, let’s just focus on the most likely team that is going to be kicking off the 2015/16 for the biggest club in the world.
What We Think May Be Van Gaal Opening Day Line-Up
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
Unless you somehow have managed to avoid all sources of football transfer news and gossip, you will be well aware that Manchester United’s much adored goalkeeper David De Gea looks set to be Real Madrid bound.
Whether it be this season for a sizeable sum of money, or next season on a free transfer, personal reasons are going to dictate that his time in the North West of England is up.
However, he is still under contract at United and is training incredibly well and professionally with his current squad. If there was absolutely no chance of him staying, Van Gaal would not have wasted his time by playing him in the friendly win against Barcelona.
The potential transfer is going to drag on for at least a few more weeks yet. He will still be a Manchester United player on the 8th August. Despite the arrival of Sergio Romero, De Gea is the number one goalkeeping choice until we are told otherwise and is a sure fire starter for the match against The Lilywhites.
Left back: Luke Shaw
Despite a debut season that may have been a bit more stop start than both he and Van Gaal would have liked, Luke Shaw seems cemented as first choice left back at the club. Although Daley Blind and Marcus Rojo can fit in in this position, it is Shaw’s role to lose.
Shaw has looked very sharp, fit and focused during pre-season and seems to have already formed a cracking partnership with Memphis Depay down the left flank. It will be very exciting for supporters to see how this partnership blossoms.
It is a Shaw thing that the 20 year old will be both Manchester United and England’s first choice left back for many years to come and it is hard to envisage any other player starting ahead of him against Tottenham.
Centre back pairing: Chris Smalling and Phil Jones
With it looking increasing unlikely that deals for either defensive target of Serio Ramos or Nicolás Otamendi will be happening any time soon, the same ‘trusted’ pairing of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones look likely to be the couple who start off in the centre back berth.
Although there are doubts that the two of them can cut the mustard against the best opponents, the two of them are more than adequate to face Spurs. Van Gaal makes a big thing of players getting a match rhythm before they can start playing competitively.
This would seemingly rule out Marcus Rojo who, at the time of writing, is yet to join up with the first team squad in America due to passport issues. With Johnny Evans looking as though he will be leaving the club before too long, and Paddy McNair still getting to grips with life in and around the starting eleven, Smalling and Jones are the most likely to continue in the fashion of having a majority British back line.
Right Back: Matteo Darmian
One of the strangest things that Louis Van Gaal has said in his press conferences over the course of the past few weeks, is that Matteo Darmian will be playing second fiddle to Antonio Valencia for the right back spot. Rafael seems to be on his way out, if anyone will take him and pay him the salary he commands, so it is a two way tussle for this position.
The club turned down the opportunity to sign great full backs in both Dani Alves and Nathaniel Clyne. There must be a reason for this. That reason is the fact that Van Gaal knows that Darmian is ready to perform in the Premier League.
He has done so at the highest level in Serie A and for his country, so now it is time for him to do it at Manchester United. Supporters have come to realise, that no matter how much they all love him, you have to take what van Gaal sometimes says to the media with a pinch of salt. Darmian is starting against Tottenham Hotspur.
Midfield trio: Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin
After looking feeble for so many seasons, Manchester United’s midfield is now the envy of every club in Europe. They have a mixture of strength, incredible range of passing and a goal in their locker.
When you’ve got a midfield that is able to keep Bastian Schweinsteiger out of the starting eleven, you know that this position is well and truly covered. If the Germany legend was fully fit, don’t forget he picked up a minor knock in the States, then it would be hard for Van Gaal to leave him out.
It is not worth the risk of playing him against Tottenham with a minor injury, so unfortunately United fans will just have to settle for a Carrick, Herrera and Schneiderlin combo. Proper first world problems.
Left midfield: Memphis Depay
What. A. Signing. Already it is possible for fans to tell exactly what an incredible signing this is. After a few friendly matches, Memphis has already established himself within the squad. His relationship on the pitch with Wayne Rooney and Luke Shaw is already evident for all to see.
He seems to know exactly where the pair are at all times. He is not afraid to run at opposing full backs. His goal record at PSV proves that he knows exactly where the back of the net is. A young winger who simply thrives on playing football already seems a Van Gaal favourite.
The trainer coach already knows exactly what his new recruit is about. So eager was he to beat off all competition, the signing was made before the transfer window had even officially opened and the dust of the previous season settled. It is impossible not to get excited over this signing.
His exemplary English, in a similar way to Bastian Schweinsteiger, along with living in a similar climate as to the one he is used to back in his homeland, should make it relatively easy for him to settle in Britain.
That was perhaps where Angel Di Maria went wrong. You need a certain personality to be able to adapt to a different change in surroundings. Memphis Depay seems to have that gritty personality. He will be a humungous success at Manchester United and will be in the starting line-up against Tottenham.
Right side of midfield: Juan Mata
Before the Barcelona match, van Gaal stated that a majority of the team that started the friendly against Barcelona, would be starting against Tottenham. Juan Mata started the Barcelona match.
Sure, Ashley Young and Daley Blind also started the Barcelona match, but it is no secret that the former Chelsea man brings even more to the table than those two. It is hard to see anyone else starting ahead of Mata against Spurs, especially if you take into regard his fantastic record against the North London club.
Striker: Wayne Rooney
Captain. Leader. Inspiration. Few players in the world could take a starting position away from Wayne Rooney. This is the season he will be hoping to break Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United scoring record for both club and country. Wayne Rooney will be leading the line against Spurs, barring any bad luck.