Manchester United fans went into this weekend’s game with Swansea City feeling confident and expectant that new boss Louis Van Gaal would be ‘bringing back the good times’. However, we sit here on Monday looking back at a 2-1 Man United loss at Old Trafford in which they impressed no one. Fans have now realised that perhaps their optimism of a title challenge was misplaced and actually their squad still needs significant improvement. We ask, what is next for Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United?
Football is a funny old game, it brings out the extremes in people’s emotions; sheer joy one day, utter desolation the next. Under Sir Alex Ferguson Manchester United fans experienced unprecedented success with a manager capable of breaking a squad down completely and rebuilding it with new players but to the same level of attainment. Things were never going to be easy without Sir Alex at the helm and David Moyes suffered the brunt of the frustration for an abysmal season by Manchester United standards. 7th place in the Premier League wasn’t acceptable, neither was the under-performance in cup competitions so out went Moyes. Louis Van Gaal (LVG) had a brilliant World Cup with the Netherlands and was given the Red Devils’ role with the assumption he could turn things around.
The squad LVG inherited was nothing special at all and needed investment. So far the club has spent £56m this summer with the additions of midfielder Ander Herrera and teenage defender Luke Shaw. These are both solid signings but they certainly aren’t enough, especially as the club currently struggles with injuries too. It meant that on Saturday, LVG named a squad that included youngsters Tyler Blackett and Jesse Lingard to fit his 3-5-2 formation. The first half against Swansea City though exposed issues with the formation despite it’s revitalisation of new captain Wayne Rooney. When right wing-back Lingard got injured, Moyes’ starlet Adnan Januzaj was brought on in his place. Not where Moyes employed him though, no, at right wing-back instead, something completely unfamiliar to the 19 year old.
Unafraid to change things about we saw Man Utd head out for the second half with a 4-3-2-1 formation as the anonymous Javier Hernandez was hauled off. Rooney equalised for the Red Devils but Gylfi Sigurdsson broke the hearts of the Old Trafford crowd and sunk Manchester United to a shocking opening day home defeat. Of course, Louis Van Gaal tried to put a positive spin on the match: “I told them in the dressing room that I could not say they hadn’t tried their utmost, it was unbelievable what a fantastic mentality they have shown. But reaching the level we want is something different. That is not only running, but also to use your brain and then you can play like a team. In that aspect, we failed today.”
The man who has managed 4 different sides to 7 league titles knows what he is doing and the first aspect of that will surely be the investment in his playing squad. It is believed Manchester United are still closing in on midfielder Arturo Vidal and defender Marcos Rojo who will both fit in with the preferred 3-5-2 formation should this be the route LVG continues to pursue. Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria is still being heavily linked to Old Trafford, as is Roma defender Mehdi Benatia and both these will add incredible talent to the red half of Manchester. Let’s not rule out the willingness of LVG to develop his youngsters either. After a career of working with youth, shown even more so by his success with Netherlands, you can expect academy men to get a go, even if it can add a hint of weakness to the United team.
What is next? Well Louis Van Gaal has until the end of August to make the above additions that will significantly strengthen his options but he also has to get his current players used to the 3-5-2. Pre-season was filled with positives and really did give the indication that “King Louis” was going to bring back the good times. Swansea City took a valuable scalp that proved Manchester United no longer carry the ‘fear factor’ with sides travelling to Old Trafford. After a disappointing defeat the expectations have once again been lowered, is 4th place now his aim? Is it too much to ask to fight for the league? Well obviously this is only game 1 of 38… There is an awful long way to go and we could all be overreacting! However, for my money if United do not add to their limp squad then they could certainly be in trouble come May 2015.
(Picture: Daily Express)