Nickname: The Red Devils
Date Founded: 1878
Ground: Old Trafford (76k)
Manager: Louis van Gaal
Rivals: Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City
Last season’s finish: 7th
First five games:
Swansea (H), Sunderland (A), Burnley (A), QPR (H), Leicester (A)
David De Gea – After a nervy start to his career in Manchester, he really did shine last season with top performances that must see him being soon chosen as Spain’s number 1. He was also the first goalkeeper to win United’s Player of the Year award last year, and will certainly remain a key player if he can keep up those impressive performances this season.
Juan Mata – He has made an instant impact since arriving last January, providing some standout performances that the club needed to lift the team. I think Chelsea made a mistake selling him as he really is a classy player – although the money accepted for his transfer was a good deal for both parties.
Wayne Rooney – Despite recent reports of transfer requests and unhappiness at the club, Rooney remains a United player and looks to be a key part of the new manager’s plans this season. His versatility of being able to play either as a striker or in midfield should see him a regular starter in this 3-5-2 formation that is speculated to be van Gaal’s chosen system.
Luke Shaw – 19 year old defender, signed for £27 million from Southampton
Ander Herrera – 24 year old midfielder, signed for £29 million from Athletic Bilbao
Areas to improve:
With the departures of the long serving defenders – Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra – United’s defence is clearly a position that needs to be improved, with just the young wonderkid, Luke Shaw, the only addition so far with less than two weeks before the opening Premier League game. If van Gaal does opt for the 3-5-2 system then the current selection of centre backs needs to be increased with only Smalling, Evans and Jones the only recognised centre backs who played last season. I also think an area of weakness is in midfield, where there is a lot of attacking talent, added by the Spaniard Ander Herrera, but no real battler that’ll provide that defensive strength that all good teams have in their ranks. Maybe Fellaini should be counted here however I don’t think he’s the solution to this problem.
I think that there is still a lot of business that needs to be taken place before I can see United as proper title contenders. Louis van Gaal’s time with Holland at the World Cup (where they reached an impressive Semi-Final finish) meant he hasn’t had the time to prepare the team as much as other managers, so he is at a disadvantage. You can also add that he will be assessing his players for the first time this preseason, so if he doesn’t have a smooth start then it would be extremely harsh for any criticism. Not that I can see that happening this year. The Red Devil’s preseason has been extremely impressive so far, and with the lack of any European competitions this season, I can see them replicating their rivals Liverpool – although without the surprise – and getting back into the Champions League once again.