The 2013-2014 season was definitely one to forget for Manchester United. It was a season of turnover as longtime legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson handed the reins over to fellow Scot David Moyes, and it did not turn out well. In the upcoming season, the Red Devils will not compete in any European competition because of their seventh place finish under Moyes. This season, they have a new manager in Dutchman Louis Van Gaal, some new signings and maybe more of them to come, and hope that he can help to bring back the EPL title. With no European competition, this could be a good year for the Manchester outfit to concentrate wholeheartedly on the league, but they will face fierce competition from roughly six other teams who have also improved.
Executives in Manchester United’s camp clearly saw that the team needed to improve and they have opened up the checkbook accordingly. Players have been brought in and some staples of the team have departed for new teams, like Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra. A direct replacement was brought in for Evra with Southampton youngster Luke Shaw making the transition to Old Trafford, but United could still use a new central defender, especially because Van Gaal wants to play a three center back system. It has been rumored that Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund is a target, but there is yet to be a formal offer.
The other big move made by United is the acquisition of former Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera, who will slot in nicely in the center of the pitch. He will be especially helpful since the injury to Michael Carrick will keep him out until about October, and play of Maroune Fellaini has been underwhelming since his arrival in Manchester. Another rumored arrival that has still not come to fruition is the possible arrival of Chilean and Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal. He has not yet been brought in because Van Gaal supposedly has doubts in regards to his fitness and Juventus is reportedly asking more than the Manchester outfit is willing to pay.
The biggest rumored signing is another player whose asking price has been too high as of yet for United – Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria. Louis Van Gaal has recently spoken about his admiration for the Argentine winger, but as of yet there has been no formal offer.
No matter if Manchester United signs more players or not, they will have a very good chance to win the Premier League for the 20th time this upcoming season. During their preseason run in the U.S., Wayne Rooney was made captain and played extremely well during the entire tour. His form will be crucial early in the season because Robin Van Persie is recovering from injury, leaving the Englishman to likely be the main striker. Rooney and Juan Mata will be the key playmakers in Van Gaal’s new 3-5-2 system that will provide them good defensive cover, but leave them little for support in the final third.
As of now, the problem with Van Gaal’s new system is that United’s stable of central defenders is very weak. Right now, Manchester’s central defenders consist of Chris Smalling, Johnny Evans and Phil Jones, which is not the greatest collection of defenders, especially if the new manager decides to play all three at the back. Some major tweaks or position switches will have to be made if no other defenders are brought in during the remaining weeks of the transfer market.
Manchester United’s title campaign will be greatly helped this season by the fact that they will not be competing in the Champions League or Europa League. This means the likelihood of winning the EPL will be greatly improved because they will be playing one game a week, while their title competitors like Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City will be playing two.
Louis Van Gaal will have a tough task trying to bring the Premier League title back to Old Trafford in his first year at Manchester United. He will bring a new formation and some new blood to the league and could take it by storm if he can get the most out of his squad.
Commentary by Max Petkevicius