It may seem like a brash statement suggesting that Manchester Unitd are big title contenders for next season but there is real reasoning behind it.
At United’s end of season awards evening back in May, United boss Louis Van Gaal did that crazy but rousing speech.
A lot of the Dutchman’s comments were about the support of the fans and thanking a “fantastic” woman who played the saxophone, but there was one thing that stood out above the rest and that was when he claimed “we are very close” when talking about winning the Premier League.
He noted the defeat away at Chelsea as the turning point, stating: “When we win that game count the numbers of points we could have won because after that we lost three games in a row. But when you see that we have 13 points and Chelsea have 83 points and we could have been champions.”
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Whilst that statement does indeed paper over some of the cracks that existed last season, a closer look does reveal that they aren’t too far away.
With the right recruitment this summer they could quite easily close the gap on Chelsea, along with recruitment the return to form of record signing Angel Di Maria will make a real difference next season especially alongside new signing Memphis Depay.
One of the key components of a title winning side is a solid reliable defence and despite receiving huge amounts of criticism last season, United’s defence was quite successful. Whilst it was behind Chelsea’s record of 32 goals against compared to United’s 37, it is fair to say that the Chelsea defence was far more settled with captain John Terry playing every minute of the campaign.
United’s defence was more of a makeshift nature, as wingers in the shape of Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young played large amounts of the season either at wing-back or full backs. All of which won’t help towards keeping those all important clean sheets.
Recruitment in this area is key for United, and it does look quite likely that David De Gea will leave Old Trafford for the Bernabeu this summer as Real Madrid look to replace veteran stopper Iker Casillas.
So it does look likely that signing a new keeper could be an area Van Gaal may look to fill, but it remains to be seen if Victor Valdes will become United’s new number one if De Gea does leave.
Two other areas in United’s back five (including the keeper) that Van Gaal needs to strengthen are a centre back and at right back. Some of the players linked include Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne, Valencia’s Nicolas Otamendi and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane.
United have the spending power to attract this calibre of player last summers acquisition of Di Maria is enough to tell anyone that and with signings of that calibre, the defence will look a lot more like one that’s of title winning quality.
Two other key areas that United need to strengthen to take them to the next level is defensive midfield and up front. Whilst Michael Carrick did superbly well just in front of the back four last season, the former West Ham man was far too injury prone and can’t be relied on for the whole campaign to stay injury free. So a quality defensive midfielder like either one of Roma duo Kevin Strootmen or Radja Nainggolan will make a real difference to United’s midfield.
Up front Robin Van Persie could well leave for pastures new, Radamel Falcao has already joined Chelsea and Wayne Rooney along with Javier Hernandez remain as United’s main striking options. So signing a top drawer striker is a must, someone like Mario Mandzukic, Gonzalo Higuain, or a more risky option in Everton striker Romelu Lukaku.
Van Gaal said “we are very close” and, with the right signings, they will be even closer. Who are we to question the judgement of multi-title winner Louis Van Gaal.