After a mildly successful 2014/15 Premier League campaign, Louis van Gaal looked to the summer transfer window to make a push for the Premier League title as well as a successful run in the Champions League.
For this Summers activity, let us start with the two main departures. Louis van Gaal made a somewhat controversial decision to let Robin van Persie leave for Fenerbahçe. He spent most of last season recovering from a taxing World Cup, and then got into injury trouble. After van Persie went down injured Louis van Gaal moved away from a two striker system, in favor of one center forward. Leaving the question of what would happen to van Persie when he eventually returned from injury. When he was able to get back on the pitch he spent most of his time as a striker off the bench, failing to have much of an impact. The former Premier League Golden Boot winner seemed to have fallen out of good graces with the manager, who seemed to think that there would be not spot for him going forward.
If this departure wasn’t controversial enough, there has also been the recent departure of Angel Di Maria to PSG, whilst he struggled in his first season in English football – a player of his talent to be discarded after one season seems rather strange. His main issue was the physicality of the Premier League. He never got to grips with it in the slightest, but, unlike his level of talent which cannot be taught in the space of a few months – body strength can! He could surely have been put on a regime to bulk him up somewhat. But, perhaps, the main issue was not on the pitch but instead off of the pitch with himself and Louis van Gaal. Who knows, but, it’s a strange move that much is for sure.
This leaves United with question marks for depth at striker. They have Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, returning from an underwhelming loan at Real Madrid, James Wilson a 19-year-old who showed promise in last seasons campaign, but question marks remain if he is old enough to be a genuine contributor within the squad. Wayne Rooney is the last striker United have, but with Louis van Gaal’s formation tinkering it is uncertain whether that will be his role consistently or if he will see time in the central midfield like last year.
Tom Cleverly, who had a strong year on loan at Aston Villa signed for Everton on free transfer. Nani the Portuguese winger also will be joining Robin van Persie at Fenerbahçe. A Sir Alex Ferguson signing who shined under the former manager, struggled to make an impact under David Moyes or Louis van Gaal. His performance at Sporting CP on loan did not do enough to get the player back into his plans for the coming season. Rafael, a right back who did not get much playing time last year due to the good form of Antonio Valencia, was sold to Lyon. The small speedy right back played strongly under Sir Alex and Moyes but never took advantage of his chances under Louis van Gaal. The right back leaves behind a memorable career at United winning 4 Premier League trophies, and, a Champions League trophy.
Now lets look at additions for United in 2015. The first signing was Memphis Depay, a winger from PSV who lead the Dutch Eredivisie in scoring last season with 22 goals. The winger has impressed in United’s preseason tour, scoring his first goal against the San Jose Earthquakes. Matteo Darmian was signed from Torino. He has already made an impact on the manager, earning himself a spot in the starting XI against Tottenham in the first game of the season. He played right and left back in the preseason tour, showing that he can be a versatile asset in defense. He also provides depth for United’s back line which was at times filled with injuries last year, leaving them with having to play youngsters and the out-of-position Antonio Valencia for large portions of the season.
Bastian Schweinsteiger has been United’s biggest signing of the transfer window, and, possibly represents the best transfer of the whole Premier League Summer to some pundits and fans. The former World Cup winner and Bayern Munich player will add class, experience, and depth to the central midfield which will be tested with a busy 2015/16 schedule that again includes Champions League football. Although he was up and down in the preseason once he is able to find form he will have a big impact in the centre of the park. Louis van Gaal also signed Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton to strengthen his midfield. Schneiderlin has played well with vice captain Michael Carrick throughout the preseason. His versatility in the central midfield and Premier League experience will be a big help to United in the upcoming season. The last signing so far was Sergio Romero the Argentina goalkeeper. He was recently a back up at UC Sampdoria, but will look to win over the United goalkeeper spot. With the departures of David De Gea and Victor Valdes expected Romero will have an opportunity to establish himself as the #1 in LVG’s eyes.
Louis van Gaal has made some signings that could be key in the coming season. He has strengthened a midfield that was probably United’s best all around area. They have Young, Mata, Januzaj, and Depay who are able to play out on the wings. The midfield is stocked with players who can make impacts in all competitions for United. Carrick, Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin, Fellaini, and Herrera will play primarily in various central-midfield combinations. They have two young players who in Pereira and Lingard who showed lots of promise in the preseason tour. There is some cause for concern at striker, where they lack depth. Rooney, Chicharito and Wilson will all compete for the long striker spot in the projected 4-2-3-1 formation. My guess would be that LVG will try to sign another striker before the transfer window closes, the names of Müller, Lewandowski, Pedro, and Bale have all been linked. While these moves are unlikely Real Madrid want to sign De Gea, so United may be able to swap players and cash to get another quality player.
Perhaps the biggest point of concern this year for United is defense. This was the one area LVG was expected to strengthen but has not done as much as expected. With the recent sale of Rafael, United have Darmian, Valencia, Rojo, Shaw, Blackett, and McNair who are all capable of playing out wide. They have Jones, Smalling, and Blind who will all play center back, however, Blackett, McNair, and Rojo can also play centrally. The biggest surprised there is Daley Blind, who started last season as a central midfielder, then converted into a left back, and now will be playing centrally. This move to me makes sense because Blind is strong defensively but lacks the pace to play box to box midfield in the Premier League. This will also give United another played capable of distribution on the field, centre backs in Louis van Gaal’s passing system have to be capable of good ball competency because of the amount of time they spend on the ball during long spells of possession.
United have made bids for Sergio Ramos but have been unable to get him out of Madrid, they have also been linked with Nicholas Otamendi for some time. Now to goalkeepers; United have had a lot of uncertainty at this position. Right now in the club they have De Gea, Romero, Valdes, and Johnstone. However, it is expected that De Gea and Valdes will be departing, with De Gea already being said to have been left out of their Premier League opener against Tottenham. That leaves two relatively new goalies at United. Romero is probably the favorite to strap on the gloves for Saturday’s fixture against Tottenhum, although Johnstone played well in the preseason he is likely to go out on loan. Jasper Cillessen the goalie of Ajax has been linked with the club but no news has come about his potential move.
LVG has a squad that he believes can challenge for the title, but 2 more signings, one class striker (Pedro?) and the other at defence (Otamendi? Ramos?) and goalkeeper (well, not many will fill the boots of De Gea!) could strengthen the squad to be more of a lock to finish in the top 2.
My Predicted XI: Romero; Shaw, Blind, Smalling, Darmian. Schneiderlin, Carrick, Mata, Depay, Young. Rooney