After all, the Red Devils finished in a shocking seventh place last season and the Old Trafford outfit is still getting over the shock. Likewise, following the departures of Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, Manchester United is a club caught in transition.
But we at Football Fancast have high hopes for the Red Devils next season, believing the lack of pressure currently upon them could see them stage a surprise coup for the English title.
With that in mind, here’s FIVE reasons United should still be considered serious title contenders.
Many doubted David Moyes’ credentials as Manchester United manager but the same can’t be said for Louis van Gaal.
The Dutchman has worked at Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, winning La Liga, Bundesliga, Eredivisie and Champions League titles in the process, and is more than acclimatised to life at a major club.
Furthermore, comparisons with Sir Alex Ferguson are hard to ignore. Like Fergie, Louis van Gaal is nothing short of completely crazy:
And his two leading philosophical pillars – a belief in youth and attacking football – suit Manchester United perfectly.
Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez were undoubtedly the Premier League’s top striking partnership last season, amassing an incredible 52 goals and 17 assists between them.
But now the Uruguayan flesh-chomper has departed for Barcelona, it’s time for Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney to emerge as the most prolific partnership in the English top flight once again.
Manchester United’s pre-season tour suggests the Red Devils will adopt a 3-5-2 system next season, which will allow both Rooney and RVP to be on the pitch at the same time, whilst assisted by Juan Mata at No.10:
Ini formasi pertandingan pertama LvG melatih Manchester United. 3-5-2. pic.twitter.com/28suGC7EdL
— Manchester United (@MUFC_NewsID) July 29, 2014
The last time the England and Dutch internationals teamed up for a whole season – without it being disrupted by RVP’s regular injuries – they amassed a collective 38 goals and 19 assists, firing the Red Devils to their 13th Premier League title.
And if the Netherlands’ impressive World Cup campaign is anything to go by, van Gaal will undoubtedly get the best out of his Oranje compatriot. Van Persie netted four times at Brazil 2014, including this now-legendary header:
Here’s some highlights of the United forwards combining to great effect during the 2012/13 campaign:
As viewable below, with the exception of Michael Carrick, Manchester United were absolutely woeful in the middle of the park last season:
Which makes you wonder whether the retirement of Paul Scholes was actually the prevailing factor behind United’s woes last term, rather than Sir Alex Ferguson stepping down.
But believe it or not, the Red Devils have actually sought to rectify their most intrinsic flaw this summer, having overlooked it for several seasons and failed to truly address it with the signing of Marouane Fellaini twelve months ago, with the acquisition of Athletic Bilbao’s Ander Herrera.
And if last season’s form is anything to go by, the Spaniard’s energetic playmaking is exactly what the Old Trafford side have been desperately searching for over the last few years:
He also nonchalantly produced this defence-splitting pass during United’s pre-season friendly against LA Galaxy:
Furthermore, Louis van Gaal isn’t stopping there. If recent speculation is to be believed, Juventus star Arturo Vidal is also on his way to Old Trafford:
— Metro Sport (@Metro_Sport) July 31, 2014
Manchester United get Arturo Vidal boost as agent admits player will quit Juventus http://t.co/4Tq2qVKciY
— Metro Sport (@Metro_Sport) August 1, 2014
Manchester United looked horrendously outdated in a philosophical sense under David Moyes, but that looks set to be rectified with Louis van Gaal importing his 3-5-2 system that earned Oranje such plaudits at the World Cup.
As previously stated, the Red Devils have lined up in a 3-5-2 for all of their pre-season friendlies, and this team, barring the absence of Robin van Persie, could well constitute their strongest starting XI next season:
Louis van Gaal menerapkan formasi 3-5-2 bersama Manchester United. pic.twitter.com/tCMBoCtQHz
— #SoalSoccer (@soal_SOCCER) July 24, 2014
Admittedly, as much the formation could give United a unique tactical advantage over their opponents, it could also become their intrinsic curse. The last major Premier League side to attempt 3-5-2 was Manchester City and it flopped spectacularly.
But LvG knows the system, how best to implement it and the type of players required well, having been luxury to a test run with the Netherlands at the World Cup.
Perhaps most importantly of all however, it gives the Old Trafford side a clear sense of identity and direction – something they tellingly lacked under Moyes.
Manchester United fans were incredibly disappointed to witness their club miss out on Champions League qualification last season but it could well prove to be a blessing in disguise.
As Liverpool proved last season, focusing your attentions solely on the league whilst divisional rivals are battling on several fronts at the same time can be a huge advantage.
Free of the shackles of European football, Liverpool staged an almighty coup for the Premier League title, finally finishing just one point short to eventual winners Manchester City.
United will be privy to that benefit next season, also having considerably longer rest time between fixtures.
It could however see them struggle to capture their priority targets this summer:
Vidal: “On my way to sign for Manchester United” Agent: “You know they didn’t make the Champions League?” Vidal: https://t.co/qtCQhUDtoW
— Football Funnys (@FootballFunnys) July 15, 2014