United Confident Under Louis Van Goals


Aug 4, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney (right) holds the championship trophy with midfielder Darren Fletcher (left) after defeating Liverpool 3-1 at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s extraneously difficult as a soccer writer to resist the temptations of preseason hype, but Manchester United’s string of strong performances made it easy to cave in. The Red Devils don’t look like favorites to take the finish first in the table, but they have a realistic shot at finishing in the top four by the end of the upcoming season.

Manchester United felt at home in the United States as they went undefeated throughout the tour. After a 7-0 thrashing over the LA Galaxy, the Red Devils struggled in a 3-2 win over AS Roma and were held goalless in a 0-0 draw against Inter Milan. However, the Old Trafford side showed signs of improvement in with 3-1 victories over Spanish giants Real Madrid and English rival Liverpool FC.

Did winning the preseason International Champions Cup mean anything to United? No, but conquering top clubs in the preseason will surely instill a mountain of confidence before their season opener against Swansea FC. Is confidence worth anything? Yes.

In case you were living under a rock, last season Manchester United performed poorly on the pitch and didn’t live up to the high expectation usually set upon on the storied franchise. Questionable player selections and predictable tactics by former manager David Moyes led to a seventh placed finish by the club.

Making major changes in the formation, Louis Van Gaal has made United play a more attack-minded, possession-based brand of soccer under the 3-5-2. Although United is playing a more offensive brand, don’t mistake it for aggression. With the likes of Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Wayne Rooney, and Shinji Kagawa, United has taken a patient approach towards goal and hardly forced wayward passes that would have been easily defended. Having creative talents at their disposal, United has broken down A.S. Roma and Real Madrid’s defense one pass at a time. Regardless who was playing the creative role, whether it be Herrera or Kagawa, the Red Devils maintained their high quality of play. That’s a sign of a good system

United’s soccer looks brilliant, classy, and most importantly entertaining. Even though United surrendered two goals against Roma and came back against Liverpool after their rivals subbed out their key players, going undefeated in the preseason against strong clubs is a noteworthy feat coming into the season. But while all is well on the creative end, there are some major concerns regarding United’s defense.

Aug 2, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Manchester United defender Phil Jones (4) collides with Real Madrid defender Daniel Carvajal (15) during the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, and Phil Jones still haven’t given United their vote of confidence in the backline. Against Liverpool, we saw a panicked Smalling and Evans chasing the ball for dear life as the Merseyside club saw their chances saved by the cat-like De Gea. The ceiling for those three is out of the question, and it’s likely that we see from them now is what we get. With Mat Hummels talks going on and off like a dialogue from Gilmore Girls, there’s no telling whether Manchester United will get that center back they desperately need.

Even with an arsenal of goal scorers and creators in their lineup, Manchester United’s offense will not be in high form at every match. It’s natural for strong teams in the EPL to have poor performances on the offensive end in some matches during the season (likely due to fatigue). In those offensively-stagnated matches, the team’s defense will be crucial in attaining those points and from the looks of the Red Devils, they are bound to suffer 3-0 drubbings in those off days. The points lost from losses that could have been draws will be the difference between Manchester United finishing in the top four of the table and missing out on the Champions League next season. If they can purchase a quality center back, then those concerns will be solved in a heartbeat.