Is title number fourteen on its way for Man United?

It was the 12th of May 2013 and Manchester United had just defeated Swansea 2-1 at Old Trafford, bidding farewell to Sir Alex Ferguson and his 26 year legacy as United’s manager. Ferguson had masterminded his and United’s 13th Premier league title, but it was the end of an era for him and United, with Ferguson retiring as arguably the greatest manager of all time.

On July 1st 2013, David Moyes finally took over as Alex Ferguson’s replacement, signing a six year contract. All started well for Moyes as he lifted his first piece of silverware, defeating Wigan in the FA Community Shield, which was followed up by defeating Swansea in his first League game as United boss. But after a poor run of form, including defeats in the third round of the FA Cup, the semi-final of the League Cup and his side sitting 7th and 13 points off first placed Arsenal, Moyes was dismissed as United manager and Ryan Giggs was appointed interim player manager until the end of the season.

Louis van Gaal was United’s next choice as manager and was installed after the 2014 World Cup. Van Gaal’s first thoughts were that he had inherited a broken United side and one that would need mending. He wasted no time opening his cheque book as he splashed the cash on Ander Herrera (£29million), Luke Shaw (£30 million), and made British transfer history by spending a record £59.7million on Angel Di Maria. In his first season in charge, van Gaal and United had a shaky start but they managed to regroup and eventually finished 4th in the table, six points and three places higher than United’s previous season.

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The 2015 pre-season saw another busy transfer period for United, with Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin, Sergio Romero and Anthony Martial all brought in to strengthen the Old Trafford club. The season has started well for van Gaal and his troops as they currently sit top of the Premier League table after seven games, losing only one, and with five victories to their name.

But can they maintain their early season form? Can they mount a serious title challenge?

Van Gaal so far has a very settled squad and rarely makes too many changes, with no fewer than eight United players appearing in all of their seven league games to date, which will allow the players to gel and improve as a team.

David De Gea remaining at Old Trafford was a massive boost for the club as he has been, without doubt, the best keeper in the league for some time and a world class keeper could well be worth ten extra points per season. Chris Smalling is another who has been a huge plus for United; he has finally come of age, becoming one of the most consistent defenders in the Premier League, and van Gaal has such confidence in him that he has even given Smalling the armband on occasions this season.

Alongside Smalling, this season, in defence has been the emergence of Matteo Darmian who has been nothing but consistent for the Red Devils. The summer signing from Torino looks every bit a classic, reliable Italian defender. Bastian Schweinsteiger, although the wrong side of 30, still shows he has more than enough in the tank to run and control a game for United and with van Gaal using him wisely by rotating him with Michael Carrick and Morgan Schneiderlin, United have the perfect midfield base to allow the likes of Mata, Rooney, Martial and Depay to express themselves.

With Wayne Rooney’s season starting with a dip in form, Juan Mata has been the ‘go to’ man for United this season. Mata has started the season on fire, with three league goals already to his name. His creative and playmaking ability will be essential to United’s season as will, in particular, forward players like new man Anthony Martial. The young Frenchman has notched three league goals in three appearances for the reds and has slotted into the United striking role effortlessly.

I am sure Rooney’s dip in form is not permanent and he will return to his best and, if United can avoid receiving too many injuries to high profile players and keep their momentum going into Christmas, there will soon be a real strong belief that they can reclaim the Premier League crown. With their Manchester rivals stuttering and last season’s Champions Chelsea still in the bottom half of the table, this could well be United’s chance to return to the top of the English game.