Seven points after three games and no goals against would be the envy of most Premier League teams, but many United fans are not happy. So how does our team look for the coming season? How concerned should we really be?
How the Squad Looks Right Now
In goal, we’ve got Romero, who hasn’t done too much wrong so far but hasn’t really been tested. And to have De Gea marginalised in this way whilst he still at the club really doesn’t feel right.
In defence, Smalling’s improvement is impressive and Darmian looks to be a future star, whilst Shaw looks far fitter and more assured this season. Blind’s intelligence and ball-playing ability have served him well at centre-back so far, but is he really the best solution? Let’s see how he copes against the likes of Aguero, Silva, Hazard, Costa, Sanchez and Benteke. Phil Jones, I have never rated, and Rojo has yet to prove he is first-choice material.
In midfield, Carrick is a decent player but beginning to look his age. Schneiderlin is playing well, offering much-needed protection to the defence, whilst Schweinsteiger’s experience and ability to marshal those around him will hopefully benefit the younger players in particular. Herrera is clearly a talent, but it seems van Gaal either doesn’t like him or doesn’t trust him to stick to the plan.
In attack, Memphis exudes promise but remains raw right now, and Januzaj is also by no means the finished article. Mata is doing a job as a ‘false right winger’, but are we really using him in the best possible way? Rooney looks wholly incapable of leading the line alone, and whilst Chicharito can surely make an impact, it’s odd to see van Gaal relying on him after sending him out on loan last season.
Who Should United Buy?
Now that Stones has asked for a transfer, United should buy immediately to secure a great prospect for the next decade in the centre of defence. Unlike Chelsea, we can offer Everton cash plus Evans, and they want Januzaj on loan, so plenty of options to negotiate, but can Woodward handle that one? If Stones goes to Chelsea, we’ll regret it.
As for injecting some excitement into our attack, this Neymar nonsense barely deserves acknowledgement, and it’s unclear who we could realistically bring in at this late stage. It doesn’t have to be a top-level, world-class forward to improve the squad – if there’s someone less ‘marquee’ with pace, strength, movement, confidence and composure, that’s fine.
Are We Missing the Fergie Factor?
I’m not expecting us to be the United of old, but it’s impossible not to reflect on what was different about United under Sir Alex. As the saying goes, Ferguson could polish a turd, and he had the talent of instilling his wining mentality into less-than-stellar players, while his man management was exceptional. Which players in the world of football wouldn’t have wanted to play for Ferguson, except for Alan Shearer with his solitary medal?
Ferguson’s choice of coaches made good players even better. There was certainly some neglect of the squad towards the end of his tenure, and who knows how much blame he should take for that, but for the majority of his reign, he seemed to know what areas he was lacking and filled those gaps with talent and experience, always with an eye for a bargain. Cantona for a million? That won’t happen again! Sheringham, who had won nothing with Tottenham, left Old Trafford with the lot! There was also the great partnership with David Gill, who was well-respected and experienced at swimming in the shark-infested waters of the transfer market.
Where Van Gaal is Going Wrong
I’m not saying that van Gaal should follow exactly in Ferguson’s footsteps, but surely instead of being so intransigent, he should look at the success of past decades and draw on that.
To me, the players don’t look in the right mind, and I attribute their frustrations to rigid, antiquated tactics. It was sad watching a talent like Di Maria reduced to a nervous wreck by van Gaal, who insisted on playing him out of his comfort zone.
I believe that van Gaal is failing on three fronts:
- He still hasn’t addressed the two vital positions we needed to fill, while packing the midfield. As such, too many players are asked to play out of their natural positions while he chased and is still chasing players he never had a chance of signing. Now van Gaal says he wants Fellaini to play as a striker, which can only mean long balls into the box a la David Moyes.
- He doesn’t have the experience in the transfer market, as he has mainly worked with directors of football in the past, and has relied too heavily on the inexperienced Woodward at United. Although they denied they ever wanted Pedro, negotiations were ongoing for months and Woodward took at least two trips to Barcelona – strange considering they weren’t interested. As Pedro’s agent commented, they fell asleep.
- Instead of continuing the principles of Busby/Ferguson and the history of Manchester United, he has come in and tried to stamp his own identity on the club, and he seems totally unbending in his beliefs, whatever the cost.
To summarise, I believe our troubles are real, and I worry about how much progress we’re really making. Of course, this is all just one supporter’s opinion…let’s hope I’m wrong.
Let us know what you think in the comments…