Can Louis Van Gaal lead United to success next season?
It would seem that United’s new manager, Louis Van Gaal, can do no wrong at the moment. Success at the World Cup with a Dutch side; seemingly average on paper and defying the odds to come third. Success so far in the transfer market bringing in Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera. Finally, success in preseason finishing with a 100 percent record, winning the International Champions Cup, beating the likes of Inter Milan, Real Madrid and local rivals Liverpool along the way. Yet despite all this ‘success’ it is perhaps a bit too early to be giving United the Premier League trophy back just yet.
Already the differences between Van Gaal and his predecessor David Moyes are ringing out for all to see. Van Gaal epitomises the hope and optimism that was seemingly lacking under the former Everton man’s brief ten month stay and most crucial of all, the Dutchman appears to have brought the Sir Alex Ferguson mentality back to Old Trafford. HD video cameras at Carrington, a no nonsense approach to fitness, the demand that English must be spoken at all times, and the replacement of rectangular tables with circular ones to get the players ‘talking’ at dinner, represent but a few of Louis Van Gaal’s eccentricities; eccentricities which, whatever way you view them, are currently producing results.
In terms of statistics, Van Gaal is up there with the best of them. Domestic titles in Holland, Spain, and Germany as well as European triumphs with Ajax, Bayern Munich and Barcelona – there is little more that can be said about Van Gaal’s credentials. In fact, the only smudge on the new boss’s CV is his failure to take Holland to the World Cup finals in 2002, but this surely can be disregarded in light of his most recent international results.
Looking forward, United fans have elected to hold a somewhat sceptical approach after last season’s wows and will no doubt base Van Gaal’s performance on Premier League results and not his previous glories. After all, Van Gaal has never managed in England, and as every English supporter likes to say – the Premier League is a different kettle of fish altogether. Therefore, United’s path to glory is not straight forward, with four crucial areas in this respect.
1 – To succeed in the Premier League, Manchester United will need a strong defence and although they have won their preseason games, this area still needs reinforcing. Phil Jones is showing promise at the heart of the back line, however he needs an experienced defender alongside to show him the ropes. While Jonny Evans is not that man, Mats Hummels just might be.
2 – United need another central midfielder. Whilst Herrera has done well so far in preseason and Darren Fletcher’s return both represent positives, the lack of options beyond this proves a worry. Personally, Vidal provides the best option – he can attack, defend and even score goals, but is he available and how much has his injury really affected him? Either way, an extra addition in central midfield is desperately needed.
3 – Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata must be accommodated in the same side. So far preseason has shown that when these two are playing together, it works. Mata in his right position, has proven that he is one of the best in the league. Rooney, although he likes to drift on occasions, is still a world class centre forward. Add to this the presence of Robin Van Persie and United will certainly be a force to be reckoned with.
4 – The emergence of David De Gea as United’s player of the season for the 13/14 campaign is of great importance. Gone are the days when a shaky Spanish goalkeeper guarded the sticks at Old Trafford. United’s success will come from its foundations at the back and David De Gea’s resilient form is vital to this.
If United can register and build upon these four points it is arguable that their transition back to success will be easier. However, with Chelsea, City, Liverpool and Arsenal looking stronger year on year, success for the red half of Manchester should never be regarded as ‘easy’. Van Gaal’s honeymoon period will come to an end. No manager, not even the ‘boss’ himself, can sustain a 100 percent winning record. A win at home to Swansea on the opening day of the season, in what Van Gaal has already referred to as a ‘must win’ game, and the honeymoon period will continue. Fail to win and the doubters may yet again return.
Ultimately, it is how United deal with these doubters and the occasional defeat that will define their season, and above all whether or not Louis Van Gaal can indeed bring United success next season.
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