This season can only be described as a disgrace. A disappointment from the word go, with only a handful of positives to call on. But with Moyes gone, and Ryan Giggs as interim manager, confidence is back on the up. With just three games remaining, United are on the brink of the most important summer in their history.
This time last season, we were about to be hit with the reality that Sir Alex Ferguson would no longer be Manchester United manager, as well as the realisation that 20 years of success could be about to come to an end. However, after winning the league by 11 points last season, we were all thinking that apart from in central midfield, the club was in fairly decent shape to challenge for the major honours. How wrong we were.
Sir Alex hand selected his successor, and David Moyes, a man who had won nothing in his career, was gift wrapped one of the biggest jobs in world football. But Fergie surely knew what he was doing right? Wrong! It was a risk that badly backfired and has cost the club dear. It has cost us Champions League football, it has cost us our pride, it also cost us £27.5m for Fellaini, someone who should have been our Yaya Toure, but has been more like Coco the clown in our central midfield.
The decision to get rid of Moyes, was in my opinion, the right one at the right time. If he would have led us into the new campaign with the same football mentality as he did this season, our exclusion from the Champions League could have spanned numerous years, just like what happened to our rivals, Liverpool. By replacing him now, I hope we witnessed a ‘dip’ in our fortunes, rather than the start of a long term decline.
Last summer was billed as a big summer for the club, but following the failings we have witnessed, this summer is now crucial.
Firstly, a new manager needs to be appointed. Through the stewardship of Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, we have been treated to always playing football ‘The United Way’. Fast, free flowing, attacking and positive football. This has all been coupled with the never say die attitude, resulting in numerous last minute winners. We need to find a manager who can bring these core values back to the club.
Ryan Giggs’ first game in interim charge brought us a glimpse of the past, and hopefully the future. The 4-0 victory over Norwich triggered a clamouring for him to get the job on a permanent basis, in the hope he could become our Guardiola. This would be a dream come true for every United fan, but maybe the opportunity has come a little too soon?
It is however widely anticipated that Dutch coach, Louis van Gaal will be announced as manager in the coming weeks and bring with him many years of experience. He led Ajax to Champions League glory 19 years ago, as well as leading European super giants Barcelona and Bayern Munich to domestic glory. As Dutch coach, he led Holland to this summers World Cup, winning all but one of the qualification games.
Because of his record of having success, van Gaal should immediately command the respect of the players, who should automatically buy into his attacking ethos. This is in stark contrast to David Moyes, who it would appear never had the respect of the dressing room from the day he walked into it.
Van Gaal is widely credited with playing attacking, positive football. It’s all about the team. In a recent 2013 interview, van Gaal had this to say about his philosophy:
The philosophy. It’s one that binds players with their coaches. In my career I’ve found players are fascinated by my philosophy. It’s an attacking, technical and tactical philosophy.
You have to play as a team and not as an individual. I’m looking to see who fits in my system – 4-3-3 – whether it is a young or old player. Age is not important.
A United side playing in a 4-3-3 system immediately reminds me of the 2007/8 team when we played with a dynamic front 3 of Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez, a season that culminated in Champions League glory in Moscow. But with the players that we have at our disposal at the moment, this simply wouldn’t be playing to our strengths. The key is to getting the right players to fit the system.
However, what our poor season has highlighted is that we need so much more than a central midfielder to fix our problems. The newspapers have said that we will have somewhere between £100m-£200m to spend this summer, but in this day and age where top players go for £40m each, money has to be spent wisely.
In defence, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra have been fairly poor all season, whilst Nemanja Vidic is heading for Inter Milan in the summer. Meanwhile Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans have all had prolonged spells on the sidelines and have been defensively questionable at times too.
In Midfield, Michael Carrick’s fall from grace has been very noticeable. He’s been our best player for the past few seasons, but this season he hasn’t been as effective. Darren Fletcher has come back this season, but he’s never got back to being the player he once was, whilst Tom Cleverley’s promise seems to have evaporated, along with his confidence. The only other option in midfield is the Marouane Fellaini who has failed to impress the majority of United fans since his big money move from Merseyside last season.
On the wings, Nani has had another non-season, as has Ashley Young who has been his usual wasteful self. Antonio Valencia has shown slightly more than last season, but not much, whilst Adnan Januzaj has been left out more and more as the season has gone on. Meanwhile, last seasons summer signing Wilfred Zaha really must give his head a wobble. His attitude seems all wrong to me, as he can’t even get a game for bottom of the league Cardiff.
It also seems to me that the balance of our squad is fairly topsy turvy. We have the likes of Rooney, van Persie, Welbeck and Hernandez, all trying to play in that strikers role, whilst Juan Mata, Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney are all looking to play in the ‘number 10’ role, behind that striker. Given that Rooney seems to be the golden boy, then it has lead to players being played out of position and being less effective as a result.
We have a few good prospects in the youth teams who need to either be given their chance, or moved on. The likes of Nick Powell, Jesse Lingard and twins Michael & Will Keane have all shown fantastic potential and are now approaching the stages of their career where they need to break into the squad, after all have spent periods on loan in the Championship this year.
What is clear is that Manchester United need to get back to playing positive and attacking football, and should Louis van Gaal bring his preferred 4-3-3 system to the club, we have to get the right players, to play in the right positions.
He needs to identify his targets early, and the club need to go out there and get them for him. The likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and the other club ambassadors will need to help to sell the club and it’s vision to potential signings, especially with the absence of Champions League football. We also need to get rid of the dead wood within the squad, which as discussed, seems to be a lot of wood.
Last year we were linked to lots of players, from the likes of Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas, only to sign Marouane Fellaini on transfer deadline day. We’ve also been linked with a lot of players this season, from the likes of Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana, to Toni Kroos and Marco Reus. All would be excellent additions but it’s tough to predict who will actually come to the club.
Luke Shaw seems the most likely to sign at the moment. A £30m fee would be a lot for a youngster but if he were to stay at the club for 10 years, it’s certainly a long term investment. I’d personally keep Patrice Evra around the club to assist with Shaws development, as well as the fact that Evra is one of the few players who seem to love the club.
As we mentioned above, we really MUST strengthen in central midfield. Toni Kroos would be superb addition, but I feel we are being used to get him a better contract at Bayern Munich. The likes of William Carvalho would be a good signing too after really impressing at Sporting Lisbon and the Portuguese national squad. Dutchman Kevin Strootman has also been linked with United in recent days, despite him only moving to Roma last summer and recovering from a serious knee injury.
United should also be be in the market for replacements for our ageing central defenders and under performing wingers. Mats Hummels, Marco Reus and Antoine Griezmann have all been linked in the recent weeks and months.
Should we bring in van Gaal, he wouldn’t be able to give United his full and undivided attention until after World Cup as he will be in charge of Holland in this summers tournament in Brazil. It would however be ideal if we can have the majority of deals in place by the time that the tournament is over on 13th July. Manchester United will play their first game of their pre season tour just ten days later on July 23rd against LA Galaxy in the USA.
Last summer, too much time was wasted and the club ultimately missed out on all of their rumoured transfer targets. Whilst Thiago went to Bayern Munich, we saw failed bids for Cesc Febregas, Ander Herrera and Leighton Baines. We finally signed Fellaini in the dying moments of transfer deadline day, paying £5m more than his release clause that had expired.
It would appear that the club are going for a big name manager and they must give him their full support. Not only do they need to make the funds available to sign the world class players, they must act quickly, professionally and efficiently in doing so. A successful summer where we lure our targets quickly should lead United back to the top of the table.
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