A fourth place finish last season helped quench some of the nervousness around Manchester United. After all, they had seen their arch rivals Liverpool struggle to qualify for the Champions League once they dropped out of the elite level. The growing competition in the Premier League means that United are still not far off from being confident of a place in next season’s Champions League. This will undoubtedly be one of the first priorities as Louis van Gaal steps into his second season at United.
However, the Dutchman will target a title at the very least to show for the progress. Despite spending vast sums of money yet again, United are not seen as favourites for the title. This is down to a combination of clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City having settled squads, while United still need strengthening in some key areas. Undoubtedly, the bulk of purchases have been completed with the arrival of players like Schweinsteiger and Depay.
The departure of Angel di Maria may not come as a surprise after the Argentine missed the pre-season tour. His exit coupled with Robin van Persie leaving the club for Fenerbahce means that United are a little short in the attacking department. Van Gaal has hinted at a surprise in this aspect and this is likely to arrive in the form of Depay being utilised as a striker rather than as a winger. United have sufficient quality behind the strikers with the rejuvenated Mata expected to play a key role in the team. Speaking about the transfer policy, Van Gaal said:
“Barcelona have the speed of Neymar and Messi — and they have Pedro behind them. We have to compete with that.
“We can win the title if we can buy players with speed and creativity. We have to improve our selection in that way.
“They are our competitors. Chelsea have Hazard, Willian, Oscar — that is speed and creativity.”
Schweinsteiger comes with a lot of experience, but it remains to be seen if he has the sufficient fitness to make a substantial impact in the Premier League. The German international has struggled with injuries over the last couple of campaigns.
If David Moyes were to still remain at Old Trafford, he would be complaining at the fixture list that contains Spurs and Liverpool in the opening five matches. Further, there is a Boxing Day fixture against Chelsea. Last season’s poor start has to be avoided at all costs if United are to think about the league title.
Key Players to Watch: Wayne Rooney, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata
Last Season’s Position: 4th
Important Signings: Matteo Darmian (Torino), Memphis Depay (PSV), Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), and Sergio Romero (Sampdoria)
Key Departures: Robin van Persie (to Fenerbahce), Nani (to Fenerbahce), Tom Cleverley (to Everton), Ben Amos (to Bolton)