After last season it is a relief to see the end of David Moyes’ mercifully short stint as Manchester United manager. The Scot was appointed to succeed one of the greatest managers of all time without a trace of success or managerial experience at the top, and perhaps most tellingly of all he never looked convincing sat in the Old Trafford dugout. Last season United played dull football and, regardless of opposition, never really looked confident enough to finish off games.
Moyes never spoke like a United manager, saying the players should aspire to play like City and how a defeat to Newcastle “raised” his spirits. By the end the fabled ‘fear factor’ that teams would normally experience when visiting Old Trafford had evaporated.
Manchester United went from first to seventh in one year and while a vast amount of blame has been rightly apportioned towards David Moyes, his predecessor and the club’s owners, there are also players that have a lot to answer for. A number of them did not pull their weight last season, with some actions such as leaking team politics and line-ups for upcoming fixtures to the media bordering on seriously unprofessional behaviour.
Last Season: 7th
In: Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao, £29m), Luke Shaw (Southampton, £27m)
Out: Federico Macheda (Released), Rio Ferdinand (Released), Nemanja Vidic (Released), Ryan Giggs (Released), Patrice Evra (Juventus, £1.5m), Alexander Büttner (Dynamo Moscow, £4.4m), Bebé (Benfica, £2.4m)
The obvious one here is Louis van Gaal. Manchester United are adapting to a new system similar to that used by The Netherlands at this summer’s World Cup: 3-5-2. In the past United have been renowned for playing with width, having a mixture of wingers and full backs. However this new system adds emphasis on wing backs, therefore the club’s traditions are being slightly altered. So far Ashley Young has been a standout in adapting the new role assuaging concerns regarding back up if either wing back picked up an injury throughout the upcoming season. Van Gaal has also said he will stick to implementing the system in terms of playing three centre backs. That currently stands with Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans with question marks over each of their heads. Names such as Mats Hummels and Thomas Vermaelen are being mentioned more than most but United face tough competition from Barcelona for their signatures.
In midfield Herrera has been a joy to watch on tour with his standout passing and movement adding much needed verve to a midfield that looked all but stagnant last term. It must also be noted that the young Spaniard is not one to shy away from a challenge, another big tick on the rather long list of things that Manchester United’s midfield needed to improve upon.
The other major signing Manchester United have made so far this summer is the acquisition of left-back Luke Shaw from Southampton. The premium price paid for the 19-year old will no doubt come laden with extra scrutiny, more so as the youngster is being very much touted to be England’s left-back for the next ten years. However there is something about the young man that suggests he will relish the opportunity to – no offence to Saints fans – step up a stage and showcase his talents.
In contrast to last season, it is expected that more players pull their weight and improve drastically. My shout for key player is Wayne Rooney being closely run by Juan Mata. Rooney is the type of player that needs an arm around his shoulder and with that in mind, the idea of giving him club captaincy would not be such a bad idea. Van Gaal has already suggested that Rooney will be played as a no.9, allowing Mata or maybe Januzaj play in the hole, so we should see an increase in goals scored not only for the England international but Robin van Persie also.
One to Watch
The optimist in me would say Tyler Blackett, although that could be a premature shout, therefore granted Ander Herrera adjusts quickly to Premier League football, a good recommendation would be the former Athletic Bilbao midfielder. How good of a season he has may depend on United bringing in a big name to accompany his attributes through the centre. Though throughout the pre-season tour of America, the 24-year-old has linked up reassuringly well with Darren Fletcher. It is a well worn cliché, but the return of the fit-again Scot is like a new signing.
With a more tactically adept manager in Louis Van Gaal, a more dynamic squad, and most crucially an increased sense of enjoyment surrounding the club, I am confident that United will return to something like the Manchester United of old and return to the top four.
BPF Prediction: 5th
Written by: Dale O’Donnell / @Strettynews