Where do you start with Manchester United? Like a few teams I’ve already mentioned, it was always going to be a difficult season for United. Coming off the back of the Moyes tenure, the United board turned to veteran Louis Van Gaal to steady the ship. Their aim following all of this was to get back into the top four, so on that front, it was a successful league finish, coming in 4th place just behind Arsenal. Despite this achievement, I think Manchester United should’ve been aiming higher. Having spent well over £100million on proven talent such as Angel Di Maria and Ander Herrera, a top four finish seems mediocre for that kind of spend. Having said that, those investments plus what they will inevitably spend this summer will put them in a great position to challenge Chelsea and City for the title next season.
The season as a whole started on a terrible note for United and their supporters, leading rival fans to draw early comparisons with David Moyes following a 5-3 loss to newly promoted Leicester City. Van Gaal arrived from Holland with his World Cup tactic of the 3-5-2 formation and tried to implement that into a United side that had never played this way before.
Playing the likes of Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair in defence and Ashley Young as left wing-back had many United fans wondering if Van Gaal was the right man for their club. However, like all of the sides in the top four, they managed to go on spells of the complete opposite to this where it looked like they couldn’t lose, and this was in large part due to the change of formation to a more conventional 4-2-3-1 that put players in their actual positions.
This tactical change brought the best out of Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young, who really came on leaps and bounds this season and have proved a lot of their doubters wrong who have said they aren’t nearly good enough for the Manchester United team.
They do need to improve on their goalscoring however next season if they plan to better their 4th-place finish. Rooney and Van Persie combined to score a total of 22 goals, less than Sergio Aguero alone, and their other strikers, Radamel Falcao and James Wilson, scored just five goals between them. For a side with title aspirations, that’s not good enough.
Key Player – David De Gea
You have to be an exceptional goalkeeper to be linked with taking over Iker Casillas’ place between the sticks at the Bernabeu. After the season David De Gea has had, it’s no surprise that the Spaniard has most likely played his last game for United and will make the move to Madrid this summer.
When United were going through a difficult spell in their season, there was only one man who continued to perform and stopped them from losing games by considerable margins. For any keeper to have three saves on the shortlist for save of the season shows just how influential he has been, and as a result, he has been United’s best player this season by an absolute mile; no one even came close.
Keeping 10 league clean sheets put him in 8th place in the season rankings, but only three clean sheets behind Thibaut Courtois at the top. If he had a better, more consistent defence in front of him, De Gea would’ve been much higher up that list.
Most Improved Player – Marouane Fellaini
After a £27million move last summer, Fellaini had an extremely poor first season at United under David Moyes, and many United fans wanted him out of the club. However, under Van Gaal this season, Fellaini has been employed in much more of a free role which has allowed him to use his physical presence around the pitch to give United another threat in their side.
The Belgian won over 90% of aerial duels this season, more than anyone other midfielder in the league by quite a considerable margin, and with six league goals thrown into the mix, he’s looked a much stronger, more complete player than he did in his first season at Old Trafford.
Teams did begin to stop the giant, most notably Chelsea with Mourinho placing Kurt Zouma in midfield against United to man mark Fellaini and compete with him in the air, but only a certain number of players could compete with this beast. It’ll be interesting now to see how he gets on next season and to see if other teams are able to mark Fellaini out of the game, which could open up gaps for creative players like Juan Mata and Angel Di Maria, if he’s still around. Overall for Fellaini it’s been a much improved season, and at 27 years of age, he’s now in his prime.
Fans’ View – Asif Norat (Writer for VAVEL)
As a Manchester United fan, I think we had a decent season, especially after having an awful campaign under David Moyes in which we finished 7th. Considering the fact that we had the most injuries in the 2014/15 Premier League season and that it was Louis Van Gaal’s first year at the club, fans wouldn’t have expected success in his first season.
One game that decided the club’s season was against Liverpool at Anfield, when Mata scored a brace that secured a 4th-place finish for Manchester United. The club will now bring in new forces in the summer and will expect to challenge for the title next season. Players like Chris Smalling, Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young have vastly improved over the season and played a major role in the club finishing top four.