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Have Manchester United Learned From Last Season?

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With Bobby Charlton having admitted that Manchester United made mistakes last season, the question on all football fans lips is- can United learn from the mistakes made under David Moyes and return to the summit of the Premier League?

United fans cringed last season watching United play dull, boring and ineffective football that left them in 7th and without any European football for the first time since the 90’s. David Moyes was an abysmal and embarrassing failure, one United are keen not to replicate. His lack of confidence against the big teams shone through, and his negative tactics and poor substitution decisions left many wondering what Sir Alex Ferguson and the United board ever saw in the former Everton manager. The summer transfer window was truly embarrassing with only Maroaune Fellaini bought in as a deadline day panic signing that saw the club pay far more than he was worth. Fellaini has failed at United, and his attitude of having nothing to prove seems to surmise him as a footballer. It has been rumoured that the transfer failings were down to Ed Woodward’s inexperience and Moyes dithering and panicking over large fees. He still managed to spend over £60m with Fellaini and Juan Mata brought in to revamp the sub-par United midfield. The importance Moyes placed on Wayne Rooney was a further humiliation, as Moyes proved he felt the potential captain was more important than the club as a whole, rumour of Rooney being consulted on all transfer dealings was met with amazement by fans. David Moyes was a mistake that left the great club in tatters and as a result the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic have all departed. United now have few players with real experience and as such it is time for the new to emerge.

Louis Van Gaal is the man appointed to turn the clubs fortunes around, and with a glistening CV the charismatic veteran has promptly stamped his authority on the club. He had given the green light to bring Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw in while still managing the Netherlands to 3rd in the World Cup and has shown flops Bebe and Federico Macheda the door with more players, in particular Fellaini, expected to leave before the transfer deadline on September 1st. It is a new era for United and faith is slowly being restored. But will Van Gaal be able to save the sinking ship?

If he is to return United to the top of the most competitive league in Europe he has to change the tactics and find a way to play Rooney, Van Persie and Mata together, or sell one of them. He has immediately brought in a new formation that allows them to play together and so far during pre-season his back three with wing-backs has proved incisive. United have looked dangerous and creative with Herrera in particular impressing. He has laid down the law to all the players, including the world’s most expensive teenager Shaw, saying that either they adapt and prove their fitness or will become surplus to requirements. He is notorious for using small squads and seems intent of reducing the mediocre group of players he has inherited. The discipline that was clearly lacking under Moyes is now back with a vengeance thanks to the no-nonsense leader Van Gaal and the players must now evolve and prove to him they deserve a place in his plans. Yes, even Wayne Rooney must prove he is worthy of his insultingly high wages, let alone the captaincy he so desperately craves.

With Van Gaal opting to play three centre-halves it is expected that he will bring in long term target Mats Hummels. Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling have proven that they are not good enough on their own, and require a stronger, more experienced centre-back to partner them. Phil Jones is a top class defender and far superior to Evans and Smalling but his versatility has prevented him from cementing a place in the back line. With the departure of Evra the defence has limited experience so Van Gaal must surely be concerned how they will cope should he fail to make a big defensive signing.

fletcher

The next problem on Van Gal’s list is the midfield. With Michael Carrick out for a number of months and the retirement of legend Ryan Giggs, now in the role of assistant manager, United’s midfield has been the centre of much criticism for years. Tom Cleverley is now loathed by fans and Ashley Young divides opinion. Darren Fletcher missed almost two years and is still not quite back to his best although his performances this pre season, where he has captained United three times in Van Gaal’s first four games have hinted he could be returning to the Fletcher of old. has failed to live up to expectations. The likes of Marcus Reus and Angel Di Maria have been rumoured with the latter being the more likely option, but no movement has been seen yet. Both players would add the much needed power and pace that the side lacked last year. Herrera seems to be a wise acquisition but another central player such as Arturo Vidal is desperately needed, the two things United lack are class and experience. Vidal has both, in spades. It has been reported that Juventus have set a 6th August deadline for any potential Vidal transfer so chances of him signing are slim at best.

The United strike force is one of the best in Europe, when they are fit. Van Persie and LVG share a close relationship and he will clearly play a big part in his plans, but his injury record is abysmal. Rooney may have talent but his attitude is as poor as Van Persie’s injury record, and despite many calling for him to be captain, I do not see him as a leader. Should United appoint a player club captain after he has threatened to leave twice in recent years? Especially when one of those occasions was to join derby rivals Man City. Do United fans really want a captain that verbally abused his own national team fans? Appointing Rooney captain would announce that he is the most important player at the club and that his power is superior, remembering that by the end of Sir Alex’s reign he hated the former Evertonian for his poor fitness and worse attitude. Javier Hernandez has never had a real chance at United, and all the noises from him indicate he is leaving. Welbeck is the glimmer of hope, he improved dramatically under Moyes but fans are unconvinced. He has a great football brain, bags of pace and his movement is fantastic, he is a player that LVG could potentially turn into a superstar, but will he get enough chances?

United have talent emerging through the ranks once again with the rapid rise of Adnan Januzaj and debuts given (by interim manager Giggs) to Tom Lawrence and James Wilson who immediately impressed. LVG seems keen on young defenders Michael Keane and Reece James, he may have found another set of stars born of the United youth system. Commitment to youth is a shared vision by United and LVG so the new boss may be confident enough in their abilities and not sign a defender at all.

Louis Van Gaal is making all the right noises, unlike Moyes, and his mountain of experience and tactical genius are sure to rejuvenate the club. But, after such a terrible campaign it is clear that there is a lot of work to be done, and not just one seasons worth. In order for United to reclaim their mantle as the biggest club in Britain then he must learn from the mistakes made by Moyes and demand drastic improvement from a team that simply failed. They are all fighting for their careers under the Dutchman, regardless of experience or talent.

Image courtesy of Sky Sports and Manchester United

 

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