It will be very interesting to see who LVG picks as his starting 11 if and when he has a fully fit squad to select from.
Ashley Young, who 99% of United supporters wanted sold last summer, has certainly done himself no harm coming in for Luke Shaw during his absence through injury. Young has often caused the opposition problems down that left flank, but I still don’t like him as a defender, and I feel he wastes too much posession and fails to put in the quality ball that our strikers. Having said that, he along with Fellaini, has certainly improved under LVG.
The result at Spurs was a disappointment, but at least that shows how far we have come in the last few months – it’s not that long since we would have taken the point at Spurs with no complaints. In reality, we totally dominated the first 45 minutes, and with better finishing could / should have had the game sewn up by half time. The second half was a different story, and in truth Spurs looked the more likely to grab the winner as the game was coming to a close.
So we have the probable availability of Rafael, Rojo, Jones, Smalling, Evans, Valencia, McNair, Blackett, Shaw and Young competing for 4 places. Whilst we need to sign 2 top defenders, United should not panic buy next month, and rather wait until the summer to get exactly who they want to fill those right back and central defender roles. It’s a real tough one for LVG – I think I maybe inclined to go for Smalling, Jones, Rojo and Shaw as my first choices. I’m sure others will have their own opinions, but it’s not a terrible 10 players to have to choose from, and any combination should be good enough to see us secure that 3rd place in the table.
The midfield is also not an easy decision for the gaffer – he has Carrick playing extremely well, and it’s no coincidence that our form and results have greatly improved since his return. He also has Herrera, Mata, Di Maria, Rooney and Fellaini to realistically select from, with Fletcher and Januzaj on the fringe. Rooney and Mata have both been playing well these past few weeks, and I can’t see LVG dropping either of them – certainly not Rooney. I think I would be tempted to play Di Maria on the right, relying on Shaw to get forward on the left, and thereby accommodating Carrick, Rooney and Mata, which obviously leaves a very talented Herrera on the bench, but only 10 outfield players can start!
It will certainly be interesting to see how LVG juggles his formations and system when all are fit, and who he will bring in next summer, as we are all aware that we most definitely need a midfield general, whether it be Strootman or someone else.
As for the front 2, I think as long as they stay fit, they pick themselves in Falcao and RVP. They should certainly score their fare share of goals these next 5 months. Whilst I really like Falcao, and have every confidence he can come good for us, I cannot see United paying £43 million for a 29 year old injury-prone striker. However, if the price was closer to £20 million, he would be a risk worth taking. Otherwise, I believe LVG will look elsewhere for a top striker.
Do we buy in January? When you look at the players we have, the injuries we have had to deal with these past months, and where we are in the table, I feel we have no real need to buy in this window. We are not going to win the title this season, regardless of who we buy, so our goal remains as it was laid out by Woodward back in August – to finish 3rd. We have to be confident right now that we can achieve that with this group of players.
It gives LVG and his competent staff time to analyze players over the next few months – both his own players and those from other clubs. We know that in order for us to challenge next season on all fronts, we will need 3-4 top top players, and with the attraction of Champions League football again (and being Manchester United), there’s no reason LVG and Woodward won’t be able to attract the very best to our great club.
So my vote is that we don’t buy in January. If we do buy anyone at all, I would have to go for Nathaniel Clyne. Let us know what you think…