With the World Cup over and the transfer window in full swing, the 2014/15 Premier League campaign is nearly upon us. In fact it’s just 25 days away, which is probably just enough time to watch all the highlights from last season to remind you how amazing it was.
Well, next term could be equally as exciting, with Arsenal finally splashing the cash, Manchester City determined to produce a much better title defence than last time, Manchester United welcoming a new manager in Louis van Gaal and Chelsea seemingly only growing ever stronger under Jose Mourinho.
Indeed, despite the inadequacies of last season, LVG’s impressive World Cup campaign with the Netherlands has generated a wealth of quiet optimism around Old Trafford, especially following the signings of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera.
So as we at Football Fancast almost explode with excitement, here’s a preview of what the Red Devils’ strongest starting XI might look like next season…
If there’s one Manchester United player whose reputation decisively stayed intact last season, it’s undoubtedly goalkeeper David de Gea.
Had the Spaniard not been in impeccable form throughout, with this double-save against Olympiacos in the Champions League being a perfect example:
…the Red Devils’ torrid campaign could have been considerably more embarrassing.
Amongst the best shot-stoppers in world football, good with his feet and improving his aerial ability all the time, there seems little reason for Louis van Gaal to oust the 23 year-old now.
Energetic right-back Rafael struggled for fitness last season, but when the Brazilian managed to get on the pitch he still produced decent enough form, as detailed below:
Admittedly, it wasn’t a patch on the campaign previous where the Brazilian netted this absolute belter against QPR:
But Louis van Gaal likes his players to be youthful and adventurous, and in that regard, the 24 year-old fits the bill perfectly.
Furthermore, with other drastic changes to the United backline expected, the continuity Rafael provides could prove vital.
Phil Jones reaction to meeting LVG pic.twitter.com/asgSPVUgZg
— United_We_Stand (@Callum_nick) July 17, 2014
If Phil Jones is ever to emerge as the world-class centre-back he’s often heralded to become, the England international must see regular action at the heart of Manchester United’s defence next season.
As you can see, David Moyes utilised the 22 year-old in four separate capacities last season, with varying degrees of success:
But issuing Jones as many starts in other positions as at centre-back is doing nothing for his long-term development.
Louis van Gaal is the perfect manager for him; just look at how the Dutchman made youngsters Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij – as well as Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar – look like absolute world-beaters at Brazil 2014.
A few more of these wouldn’t go amiss either:
Of all the centre-backs alleged to be on Manchester United’s radar this summer, the pick of the bunch has to be World Cup winner Mats Hummels, who once worked with Louis van Gaal at Bayern Munich.
Measuring in at 6 foot 4 and averaging five successful aerial duels per match last season, the Borussia Dortmund centre-back is a formidable force in the air. Here he is netting a ferocious winning header against France during the World Cup quarter-finals:
But the 36-cap international is better known for his ability to play out of the back and link-up with midfield, often leading to comparisons with Mannschaft legend Franz Beckenbauer, best represented by these attacking and passing statistics:
Here’s a vid showing Hummels’ impressive all-round game:
And according to speculation this morning, the 25 year-old’s much-anticipated move to Old Trafford could be imminent:
Mats Hummels close to joining Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund http://t.co/aoM2U5dOxz
— Daily Mail Football (@MAILfootball) July 21, 2014
Former Southampton prodigy Luke Shaw is currently Manchester United’s most expensive acquisition of the summer, having splashed out a whopping £30million on the 18 year-old.
Of course, the ex-Saints starlet comes with a preceding reputation, having made the No.3 slot his own at St.Mary’s over the last few seasons and shown enough promise to usurp Ashley Cole from a place in the England set-up he’s held for over a decade.
Famed for his vibrancy going forward and immense athleticism, as illustrated in the below video, the England international will add a whole new dimension to the Red Devils’ attack.:
Netherlands international Kevin Strootman may have missed the World Cup through injury, but the industrious midfielder remains a key factor in Louis van Gaal’s alleged transfer plans.
The 24 year-old has emerged as one of Serie A’s most dominant forces since joining Roma from PSV last summer, claiming five goals and six assists in 25 league outings, as well as this wonder-strike in the Coppa Italia…
But the Oranje international’s utility to the Red Devils in a box-to-box capacity is better represented by the impressive statistics below…
Often referred to as the Dutch Roy Keane, Strootman has been billed as a future United star for some time. But recent speculation suggests, due to an ACL injury that will see him out until November, the Old Trafford outfit may wait until January to launch a bid:
[DAILY STAR] Man Utd set for January Kevin Strootman swoop as Roma confirm injured ace is on the mend: KEVIN S… http://t.co/7ppQsFJK4k
— Kicau ManUtd (@KicauManUtd) July 15, 2014
Another midfield target firmly on the Old Trafford radar is Juventus star Arturo Vida, reportedly the subject of a €54million bid:
— Goal (@goal_intl) July 21, 2014
The 27 year-old has been in impeccable form since leaving Bayer Leverkusen for the Old Lady in summer 2011, since claiming three consecutive Serie A titles.
And as viewable below, the prior campaign was undoubtedly Vidal’s best in Turin:
The Chile international’s box-to-box style, boasting robust athleticism and netting prowess, makes him a perfect fit for Louis van Gaal’s attacking mentality. But the Red Devils will have to wait patiently until Vidal returns from his holidays to formally agree terms:
Arturo Vidal leaves door open to Manchester United move and will talk after his holiday http://t.co/Sj1pZ8XhID
— Daily Mail Football (@MAILfootball) July 18, 2014
Finishing off a new-look midfield three is playmaking Spaniard Ander Herrera, whom the Red Devils completed a £29million deal for at the end of June.
The 24 year-old was strongly linked with an Old Trafford switch in summer 2013 and vastly increased United’s interest in him throughout last season by producing consistently impressive form, as seen below:
The former Athletic Bilbao star is seen as the perfect acquisition to add some mobility and technical quality to United’s struggling midfield. Here’s some of Herrera’s best moments for the Spanish side:
Juan Mata initially struggled out wide after joining Manchester United for a club-record £37million in January. But needs must, and with the Red Devils expected to invest heavily in the middle of the park, the Spaniard may once again find himself donning the flanks next season.
No doubt, the 26 year-old is a quality player, and after finding his feet at Old Trafford was one of United’s most productive attackers, as viewable below:
This set piece effort against Southampton particularly stood out:
But doubts will remain whether the Spain international would be more effective in a central role that saw him claim back-to-back Player of the Year awards at Chelsea.
Likewise to Juan Mata, with Louis van Gaal clearly favouring the option of Robin van Persie up front, Wayne Rooney may find himself shipped out wide next season.
The England international endured a disappointing World Cup but was verging upon talismanic at times for the Red Devils last term, as detailed below:
Here’s a look at the 28 year-old’s top ten goals from the 2013/14 campaign:
Who else but RVP? Sharing a son-I-never-had relationship with Louis van Gaal, the 30 year-old is not only the firm candidate to take the lone striking role at Old Trafford next season, but also the captain’s armband.
Perhaps it’s justified – after all, the Netherlands international has netted 48 times in just 76 appearances since controversially joining United from Arsenal in summer 2012.
Furthermore and perhaps most importantly, van Gaal undoubtedly got the best out of the Oranje captain at the World Cup where he netted four times in six appearances, including this sensational header against Spain:
The last time van Persie was in hot form, he fired United to their 13th Premier League title. Just sayin’.