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Football News: Manchester United Season Preview

Manchester United Season Preview
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This is a massive make or break season for Manchester United, with the investment they are making in their team, Louis van Gaal will be expected to do more than just finish within the top 4. This summer there will be no more Angel di Maria and Ander Herrera type of signings, deals that were set up and then presented to LVG as done deals and his input merely to say 'oh go on then, may as well get them as it is done'. This summer he is picking the targets.

The last few years has seen the Red Devils particularly weak in the midfield, but the arrival of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger has seen that change. Now the United midfield looks strong, on paper at least, despite the loss of local 'favourite' Tom Cleverley and the world's second best Michael Jackson impersonator, Nani. Those additions, along with the departure of Robin van Persie, will allow Wayne Rooney to move out of the midfield berth he has often been asked to fill in recent years.

While the midfield has been significantly strengthened, the other areas of the pitch are still a concern for the fans, as well as the management of Man Utd. Memphis Depay adds an attacking threat, but there is obviously the worry of relying too much on a young talent who might take time to adapt. The loss of van Persie, along with last year's loan flop Falcao, leaves Man Utd extremely short of options up front, they will be very reliant on Rooney's fitness and form if they can not secure the forward signing they are chasing hard for.


The defence is even more of a worry, especially the goalkeeper situation with David de Gea's future still up in the air for next season. The only question being whether he will leave this summer for a fee or join Real Madrid on a free transfer next summer instead. The arrival of the out of contract Sergio Romero has been accompanied by the attempted sale of Victor Valdes, but the former Barcelona shotstopper rejected a move to Turkey.

Since then van Gaal has tried to force Valdes into a position which is untenable, with his public criticism of the player for not playing U21 games, claims which have been just as publicly disputed by the player and his agent. It is not just the goalies which are a worry, as the senior central defensive options consist of a number of players who are not good enough and can only be relied upon to miss important matches through injury. The likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans have been unable to make the progress expected of them as injuries have stalled their careers repeatedly.

At least the full back positions are looking much stronger with the arrival of Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw gaining experience. Even with the uncertainty surrounding goalkeepers, United are just a top centre back and striker away from what should be a title challenge. With the money spent over the last couple of years, LVG will certainly be expected to provide one this season.


Reasons to be cheerful:
The midfield is the strongest it has been for many years.
In Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian Man Utd have two of the best full backs in the league.
Marouane Fellaini provides an excellent option to revert to plan B in times of need.
Herrera and Schneiderlin can provide plenty of energy, as well as providing an attacking threat, to be the legs for Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick. Allowing the older men to supply the quality and set the tempo.
Di Maria and Falcao's obscene wages will be off the books.
Memphis Depay, he is extremely talented, but also possesses the physical attributes to be a huge success in England.
Louis van Gaal, he has a proven track record of winning titles in the past. Plus there is always his drunken end of season speech to look forward to.


Reasons to be fearful:
The sale of van Persie and return of Falcao from his loan spell leaves United short up front.
They have yet to sign the top class centre half they so desperately need.
The mess that is the goalkeeper's situation needs to be sorted quickly.
Lack of cover in the full back positions means that an injury to Shaw and Darmian would leave Man Utd exposed to having Antonio Valencia and Danny Blind as their full backs.
The failure of the youth academy to provide genuine quality additions to the squad in recent years. Even the young players on the verge of the first team have struggled to actually make progress once they get that far. As a club that was built on bringing through young players, even as far back as Matt Busby's era, that is concerning. Tyler Blackett, Patrick McNair, Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson need to step up and change that.
Louis van Gaal, while he has a track record of winning titles in the past, he also has a track record for things blowing up in his face while he falls out with his players. The parting comments from van Persie and the dispute with Valdes shows that tendency is still there.


What can we expect from Manchester United next season?
Unless it all goes spectacularly wrong this season, a top four position is the very least LVG will be expected to provide. They also need to ensure that they make the Champions League group stage at a minimum. Both targets should be achieved, though a lot will depend on the final month of the transfer window, as the defence and forward line are not good enough to do much more than that.

The problem is, with van Gaal at the helm, it is very possible that it could all go spectacularly wrong, as his abrasive personality leads to the possibility of clashes with the players. A hoped for title challenge could turn into a major implosion as unhappy players, such as de Gea and Valdes, could well be still at the club, constantly at loggerheads with the manager. Louis van Gaal will need to show that he has learnt something from his past experiences, and that he can promote a team togetherness, even amongst a fractured squad.

Written by Tris Burke August 03 2015 08:14:40