Previewing Manchester United's 2015/16 Premier League campaign
The 2015/16 season will mark a season of high expectations for Manchester United. After achieving their primary target of finishing fourth last season, United have gone on and spent freely in the transfer market this year and now look to get back to the pinnacle of English football.
If last year was all about trying to rebuild the ship that was left in deep waters by David Moyes, then this year will be all about steering that ship to the shore well ahead of everyone else.
Louis van Gaal has now spent a year instilling his philosophy into the players, devising a winning formation, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of all the individuals. On top of that, the Dutchman has spent over 200 million pounds in the transfer market over the last year and therefore nothing short of a serious title challenge would be enough for the United faithful.
With the new campaign now just a week away, let’s have a look into what’s in store for fans of Manchester United –
What went right last season to be the foundation for the current campaign
One of the major highlights of the last campaign was United’s home form and their performances against the top six teams. Barring a couple of narrow away defeats to City and Chelsea, there was a massive improvement from the season before. They will have to keep the same level of performance(if not better) against the big teams and also re-instill the fear of Old Trafford into their opponents.
Another positive that came under the stewardship of Louis van Gaal last season was the never-say-die attitude of the team – which was prevalent in the teams of the past but became almost non-existent under David Moyes. That believe saw them score some crucial late winners and equalisers. However, it was nowhere as close as it was under Sir Alex Ferguson, but there were certainly some good signs that that confidence was coming back.
The good form of Michael Carrick and Anders Herrera in midfield, Ashley Young on the left flank and David de Gea (if he stays) between the sticks would be another major factor which United would want to build upon in the upcoming season. With further reinforcements coming in the form of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin in the midfield and Memphis Depay on the flanks, the Red Devils well equipped at the heart of their midfield and on the flanks.
Righting the wrongs of last season
One of the major disappointments of last season was that whenever United looked to have taken a couple of steps forward, they immediately fell a step back. A lack of consistency in their performances was the major concern for Van Gaal that relinquished any hopes of a title challenge.
And if there is anything that is to blame for this lack of consistency, then it was their fragile defense that lacked a natural leader after the departure of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. If it hadn’t been for the heroics of De Gea in goal, the Old Trafford outfit might well have been looking at another season without Europe.
Although the club have already made five new signings this year, none of them is a defender who could plug that gaping hole in the central defense. With Mats Hummels and Sergio Ramos deciding to stay put with their clubs, it remains to be seen whom United will look to sign within the remainder of the transfer window left.
Another area where United would like to improve massively upon last season was their away form. They won only six of their nineteen away matches last year while the champions, Chelsea, won almost twice as many (eleven). Therefore, United know they need to almost double their efforts in the away matches.
What have they done to improve this season
Manchester United looked at their best last season whenever they had Michael Carrick in front their defense. But unfortunately for the Englishman, injuries played spoilsport which restricted him to only eighteen appearances for the season. The worse was that United had no cover for the defensive midfield position, especially one who was as classy as Carrick.
Louis van Gaal must have identified this which made him sign a world-class, proven player in the form of Bastian Schweinsteiger and a pleer whose star is on the rise, Morgan Schneiderlin, thus making United well-equipped in that position now.
Signing Argentine international goalkeeper Sergio Romero ensures they have sufficient cover and quality in case De Gea decides to leave for Real Madrid.
Moreover, Memphis Depay could ensure that United doesn’t feel too aggrieved following Angel Di Maria's imminent departure to PSG. The latest rumours of Barcelona forward, Pedro, signing for the club further shields them further in that area.
Having signed all these players, however, United still wouldn’t be considered an improved side unless they sign a quality centre-back who would plug their major weakness of last season. Louis van Gaal might think attack is the best form of defense, but no major championship has ever been won without a resolute defense.
In Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, Manchester United have got two world-class players who can make the difference this season. Rooney, following the departure of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao, is expected to be played in his preferred role of a striker for the entire campaign. Van Gaal should look to build his side around these two players, and at the same time, focus on how to maintain their form and fitness throughout the season, which will be essential to United’s chances of winning silverware.
Besides these two, another player who can have a major impact for United in the league is new signing Bastian Schweinsteiger. The German World Cup winner brings a wealth of experience and winning mentality into the squad that is second to none. If he manages to adapt to the pace of the English game soon enough, then there’s no doubt the Red Devils will mount a serious title challenge.
Players to look out for
Besides the star players like Rooney, Carrick and Schweinsteiger, who are expected to have a stellar campaign, all eyes will be on the other two major signings – Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin.
The Dutch winger is one of the most exciting young players in the world right now and is expected to keep the United fans on the edge of their seats with his skill and trickery. The French midfielder, on the other hand, is expected to shield the back four and continue from where he left off at Southampton and is considered a long-term replacement for potentially Roy Keane, as the Old Trafford outfit haven’t had a tough tackling midfielder since his days.
Youngsters Andreas Pereira, Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson, who have already caught the eye of fans around the world are also expected to have a big season ahead.
United have been quite busy in the transfer market this year and have gone on and strengthened their squad to meet the demands of a rigorous season that lies ahead. But even with all those signings, they still lack a genuine match winner in their squad, someone who can win a match just on his own.
Even Van Gaal acknowledged this fact in a recent press conference where he said that other top teams have at least one such player who can turn the game on its head like Chelsea have Eden Hazard, Real Madrid have Ronaldo, Barcelona have Neymar and Messi. United still don’t have someone of that calibre.
Angel Di Maria could have been the player that could have plugged this gap at United but, unfortunately, he seems to be heading for pastures anew. And although there are rumours that United are yet to reveal if they will make a marquee signing this transfer window, unless he is someone who is in the same league as the players listed above, the team will find it difficult to win the league this season.
Moreover, the Red Devils are yet to answer their defensive problems. Therefore, unless a world-class defender is signed and a player who can produce a moment of brilliance is brought in, Manchester United are more likely to finish second or third in the coming campaign.