Manchester United are well in contention for a Champions League spot ,but their fans will be far from happy with how the current season has panned out for them so far.
It wasn’t long ago that the Red Devils were celebrating winning another title in the 2012-13 season under Sir Alex Ferguson. It was to be the Scot’s last season in charge and, since then, Manchester United’s fortunes have not returned to the glory days under Sir Alex.
It was no secret that the transitional period was going to be a tough one. Sir Alex has got the very best out of his side that won the title in 2013 and their ageing legs meant that United would have to add fresh blood to the side if they wanted to maintain their superiority in English football. Under David Moyes, the team struggled and the Manchester United board and fans quickly lost patience with Sir Alex’s successor. Now, Louis Van Gaal is in the hot seat at Old Trafford and although there has been slight improvement, there are still a number of problems that the Dutchman needs to resolve in the summer.
Firstly is the defence. On too many occasions this season, United have looked out of shape and weak at the back. This is largely due to the fact the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have not been replaced since they left the club in the summer. Marcos Rojo was brought in, but he has struggled to adapt to the Premier League as quickly as Van Gaal would have liked.
Youngsters have been given a chance to impress at the back and Paddy McNair has shown that he could be an excellent option for the red devils in the future. The defence is not disastrous, but it is not strong either. If Van Gaal wants to challenge for the title next season, he is going to have to strengthen at the back instead of solely relying on youth prospects.
Another issue is a lack of pace in the side. United are not short of options when it comes to creativity in midfield but there is only so much creativity can do when the team lacks pace and movement. Angel Di Maria seems to be the only United regular that can attack defenders and really push United forward. Without Di Maria on form, the team is often incredibly lethargic and lacking in ideas.
The front pairing of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao simply haven’t lived up to the expectations that surrounded them at the beginning of the season. Rather ironically, United are missing an attacking figure like Javier Hernandez, who has the pace and movement to compliment a strike partner like Falcao or van Persie.
The problem is that the current pairing simply do not form a good partnership, meaning that goals are not being scored as much as they should be, particularly when you consider the amount of investment that has gone into the squad over the last few transfer windows. Van Gaal needs an injection of youth and pace into his striking options and only then with the team’s attacking threat improve.
Van Gaal will know that these issues need to be resolved quickly but there is still one major problem that must be addressed in the near future. The Dutchman must decide who his best team is and he must stick to it so that the team can gel as a unit. This includes sticking to the same formation and fielding the same players on a regular basis. The manager may use this season as one of experimentation, to see who plays best in what positions and who simply won’t make the cut. Whatever Van Gaal decides, he must stick to a certain playing style and formation of players in order to encourage team chemistry and stability in the squad to prosper next season.
The manager will be keen to improve his squad in the summer and he will have a plan in place to develop Manchester United into the club they once were. However, there is still a lot of work to be done and next season will be the real test of Van Gaal’s managerial ability in the Premier League.