Looking back, it’s still incredible to think of the season Manchester United had last term under David Moyes. The manager at the time broke multiple unwanted records, with losses domestically and in Europe, as well as seeing the club to a seventh place finish in the league.
This season, the club have landed themselves one of the most decorated and respected managers in the game, with Louis van Gaal arriving immediately from his post as Netherlands coach.
But it’s not just a new manager that will help, nor the players. United’s stature and history alone makes them candidates for the league title. One disastrous season isn’t always enough to keep a major club away from top honours.
With that in mind, he’s a look at six reasons Man United will be in this season’s title race.
Louis van Gaal is widely considered one of the best managers in Europe, and one who helped to shape the modern game. The Dutchman has been a success wherever he’s coached, including in his homeland with AZ Alkmaar, in Germany with Bayern Munich and in Spain with Barcelona.
He’s a huge step up in class from David Moyes, who never seemed to be able to come to terms with the size of Manchester United. The input of the new manager, however, has been clear from the off, with United looking much more positive in pre-season than they did last season under Moyes.
Van Gaal will clash with someone in England, either personnel at United or individuals in the media. But it’s difficult not to see him as a success in the future. The arrival of the Dutchman will be a major factor in United running the race for the league title.
There was plenty of excitement following Ander Herrera’s switch from Athletic Bilbao to Manchester United this summer. The Spanish midfielder was deemed exactly the type of player that would have energised the team’s midfield after many years of frustration in that department.
Herrera has been in very good form throughout pre-season and has the talent to hit the ground running in the Premier League. The Spaniard can do it all in the centre of the pitch, able to help out defensively as well as provide goals and assists.
He will prove an important player this season, with United severely lacking any creativity beyond the former Bilbao midfielder.
Robin van Persie inspired Man United to the league title in his first season with the club, but suffered during his second campaign due to injury.
But the Dutchman looked completely revitalised under Louis van Gaal at the World Cup, and United fans will be hoping the forward carries on that form throughout the coming year.
Van Persie has struggled for fitness of late, but if he can move past those worries, he will play a large part in United’s charge on the league title. Even now at 31, van Persie is still one of the best players in the Premier League.
Earlier this week Wayne Rooney was announced as the new captain of Man United, having been one of the two most obvious candidates to inherit the armband.
Rooney’s past at the club has been sketchy at best, but when on form, he has proved inspirational on countless occasions.
Louis van Gaal will clearly be looking to unlock those performances permanently, and handing the captaincy to Rooney should see the forward elevate his game. He had a good season under David Moyes last year, and has looked bright in pre-season under the new manager.
With Rooney bringing his best form to this coming season, United will have more than enough firepower to land the league title.
Whether it’s Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels or Juan Cuadrado, Man United simply must add more quality to their squad, and there are few doubts that they will. With a little over two weeks until the closure of the transfer window and the more than enough in the budget, the club should look to add at least two more players this summer.
The major area of concern is at centre-back, where there is now no longer a standout figure following the departures of both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have simply not developed as quickly as most would have hoped.
It’s also expected that United will add another central midfielder after showing so much interest in Vidal. With Juventus looking likely to hang on to the Chilean, United would be best served looking elsewhere.
But once the squad is complete, at least in terms of the obvious needs, Louis van Gaal will have enough at his disposal to launch a successful challenge on the league title.
It’s easy to forget just how good Juan Mata is. The former Chelsea forward won back-to-back Player of the Year awards at Stamford Bridge, and it was considered madness when Jose Mourinho allowed the Spanish international to move to United last January.
But Mata struggled somewhat due to the overall problems at the club under David Moyes. With a new manager in charge, this will very much be seen as a fresh start for the Spaniard.
Either as a wide player of central playmaker, Mata is one of the best in the Premier League. He hit outstanding numbers in his first two seasons in the Premier League and should have no problem matching those performances this year.
There’s a reason United were so keen to splash out £37 million on Mata, and this season the Spanish international will go a long way to repay that faith.