Manchester United – Season Preview


Aug 4, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Fans celebrate after Manchester United defeated Liverpool 3-1 at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Manchester United looks ready to usher in a new era under Louis Van Goals after a solid preseason tour around the United States and a 2-1 victory over Valencia at Old Trafford. Despite some crucial departures and few additions to the squad, the club looks stronger and more confident than they have last season. The club is itching to prove to the EPL that they belong in the top of the table and that last season’s failure was attributed to poor tactics and not their lack of talent. Are the Red Devils capable of restoring their former glory to Old Trafford? From the looks of the club’s current form, I don’t see why not.

Last Season


David Moyes was not up to the task. As Manchester United slogged their way to a sluggish start last season, fans were split on whether he should be fired or given more time to adjust to the pressures of a major club. Adapting to the high expectations of a top flight club is one challenge, but that challenge pales in comparison to succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson.

David Moyes’ nightmarish tenure at Old Trafford did not last too long as he was fired 10 months after his hiring. He is the third shortest tenured manager in club history. – Taken by Manchester United Official Facebook page

The former Everton boss had a lot of pressure riding on his back, and ultimately it crushed him halfway through the season. His stubbornness to rely on wing-play despite his club’s lack of quality wingers resulted in sloppy and predictable build up on the offensive end. His lack of flexibility with tactics and squad selection forced players at positions they weren’t comfortable with. He had a talented squad to his disposal, but he failed to get this collection of talent to play as a cohesive unit.

Even though a few fans patiently wished Moyes would be given more time, his firing seemed inevitable before the season ended. With Louis Van Gaal at the mantle, Manchester United hopes to clean up after the mess Moyes created and officially begin the post-Sir Alex era.

Transfers In

Luke Shaw – Left Back (33 million pounds)

One of the marquee runaways from Southampton, Luke Shaw proved to be brilliant over at Southampton despite being 19 years of age; however, it’s questionable whether he is talented to enough to propel Manchester United to the top four. He is really young and has a high ceiling, but the key issue is if he can help the club now. There is no doubt that he can put on a strong performance, but will he deliver it consistently? His form during preseason failed to answer that question.

Ander Herrera – Central Midfielder (31.68 million pounds)

Bought from Atletico Bilbao, Ander Herrera has a wide range of skills that can be utilized on the offensive and defense end. The 24 year old Spaniard can’t be labeled strictly as an attacking midfielder or a defensive midfielder because of his versatility.

According to Squawka, Herrera scored more tackles (75) than anyone of the 2014 Spain World Cup roster, including Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique, in the 2014 La Liga season. He also created 53 chances (averaging 1.61 chances per match) that season and completed 81% of his passes.

What’s special about Herrera isn’t just his versatility, but his dribbling as well. His pace and footwork is deft enough to break past EPL defenses and open up space for his teammates. Given that Juan Mata will be the key playmaker at attacking midfield, expect Herrera to play behind his compatriot at central midfield.

Transfers Out

Rio Ferdinand was one of the longest tenured defenders in Manchester United and helped them to multiple titles, including the 2007-200 8 UEFA Champions League trophy. – Taken by Manchester United official Facebook page.

Rio Ferdinand – Center Back (Free Transfer to Queens Park Ranger)

The longtime Manchester United anchor will be missed after his 12 years of service. Rio is 35 years old and played like his age in his final season at Manchester United. Although his legs and aerial ability aren’t what they used to be, his experience and leadership will be sorely missed.

Nemanja Vidic – Center Back (Free Transfer to Inter Milan)

Vidic is 32 years old and is far past his ceiling as a defender, but he is still serviceable at a high level. Manchester United won numerous titles thanks to his solid defending as his strength, game-reading ability, and passing brought much stability to the back line. Defenders like Vidic are hard to come by in today’s game.

Patrice Evra – Left-Back (1.32 million pounds transfer to Juventus)

Who knows if Evra is good enough to merit ample playing time at Juventus. Although his final season left much to be desired, you can’t discredit what he has the last eight years. The dogged left-back worked hard to succeed Mikael Silvestre and played a part in Manchester United’s 2007-2008 UEFA Champions League title and five Premier League titles. After providing stability at the wing-back spot for many years, his quality started to wane and it was time for the Red Devils to move on.

Bebe – Right Wing (2.64 million pound transfer to Benfica)

He is the Portuguese Dong Fangshuo.

Alex Buttner – Left-back (4.84 million pound transfer to Dynamo Moscow)

Now much to say about Buttner. He used to battle with Fabio for playing time at the left-back position behind Evra, but neither of the two proved to be worthy successors.


–          Creativity

Juan Mata and Ander Herrera are the like starters in the central midfield positions. From the bench, United has Shinji Kagawa, Tom Cleverley, and the resurgent Darren Fletcher. Alongside starting wingers Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia and forwards Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, the Red Devils are a club that will not only keep possession, but also attacking from various parts of the pitch. With Juan Mata slotted in his natural position, Manchester United will find countless chances to score.

–          Coaching

Finally a manager who has a world-class pedigree. Fresh out of a successful World Cup campaign where he led the Netherlands to a third-place finish, Louis Van Gaal has overthrown David Moyes’ blueprint and instituted a new game plan that will ensure success on the offensive end for Manchester United. With the 3-5-2 formation, Van Gaal aims to maximize the talent of his offensive players with hopes that their offense and possession will mask their defensive deficiencies.

Aug 2, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney (10) goes for the ball against Real Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa (17) during the second half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

–          Finishing

With a creative force behind them, Rooney, RVP, and Chicharito shouldn’t have any problem finding a chance to score. Manchester United should not be worried about seeing the back of the net with two renowned scorers up top and an established poacher on the bench. Winning games with a large goal differential shouldn’t be difficult.


–          Poor Defense

Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Rafael, and Luke Shaw aren’t bad defenders, but they aren’t the kind of players who can play at a high level on a consistent basis. As seen in the preseason friendly against Liverpool, Manchester United’s defense looked frantic when Sterling broke through the backline with his speed and dribbling. With the backline scrambled by Liverpool’s attack, the Red Devils had to drop back and help out the defense, inhibiting their options moving forward.

I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again, the Red Devils need to sign a top-tier center back to guarantee a top-four finish.

–          What to do with Januzaj?

 The midfield position is already congested while Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia look to control with wing positions. Where does that leave Adnan Januzaj? The Belgian international was one of the few bright spots last season, but with Van Gaal implementing a 3-5-2 formation Januzaj’s playing time could see a dramatic drop.

Young has shown improvements this preseason, working harder than ever to make plays on and off the ball and putting his body on opposing dribblers to win back possession. Januzaj doesn’t have the physicality to contribute on both sides of the pitch and is best utilized solely on the creative end. However, for the sake of his development, he needs the playing time on a first-team side. Loaning him to a mid-table club wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Projected Starting XI (3-5-2)

GK: David De Gea

DF: Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling

MF: Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Juan Mata

FW: Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie

Projected Finish

Manchester United will finish fourth. They will struggle against the resurgent Arsenal and the newly improved Chelsea and Liverpool, but they should not have any problems defeating lower clubs like Sunderland and Aston Villa. Their defense isn’t terrible, but it’s weak enough to be exploited by other strong clubs competing for the top of the table. In the beginning of the season, the Old Trafford side might be looking outside the top four, but a crucial midseason transfer will elevate them to where they want to be. It’s not a stretch to say they are close to becoming the Premier League champions that they once were, but it’s doubtful that this season will be their year.