With a fan-base that spreads all across the globe, Manchester United is one of the biggest clubs in Europe, at par with giants such as Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona. It is also the most successful club in English league football with 20 top-division titles. Since winning the inaugural season of the English Premier League in 1992-93, Manchester United embarked on their most successful period in the club’s rich history. Under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson the Red Devils won 13 Premier League titles and also won the Champions’ League in the 1998-99 and 2007-08 seasons while also completing ‘the Treble’ on both these occasions .
Last season Manchester United began a new chapter in the club’s annals after Sir Alex decided to call time upon his 26 year era at Old Trafford. Everton manager David Moyes would become the ‘Chosen One’ after Sir Alex requested the club’s board that the vacant job be filled by his fellow Scotsman. And so Moyes ended his excellent 11 year reign at Everton to take up what he described to be a ‘dream job’.
As matters panned out, the dream slowly turned into a living nightmare over the next 10 months. Despite being the defending champions United failed to find any consistency throughout the season and soon lost their grip on the title. That culminated with the sacking of Moyes as United ended the campaign on seventh position, their lowest finish in the Premier League era.
Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager Louis Van Gaal was announced as the replacement for David Moyes. Van Gaal is massively experienced coach with a reputation of being a master tactician and a strict disciplinarian – qualities associated with Sir Alex himself. Soon after leading his native Holland to a commendable third-place at the World Cup in Brazil, the 64 year old Dutchman arrived at Manchester to begin his first foray into English football.
However, it will not be a walk in the park for Van Gaal, who has a massive rebuilding task on his hands especially with the difficulty that United are currently facing in drawing players to the club. Moreover, Manchester United’s squad lacks balance and quality in certain key areas of the pitch as was proved by their performances last season. They need immediate reinforcements in defensive midfield and in central defence which have not yet arrived.
Furthermore, Van Gaal will most probably start with the 3-5-2 formation which worked so well for him with the Dutch national side in Brazil. But it will be interesting to see how that works out for him with United as they do not have many natural wing-backs which is a very crucial position in the 3-5-2. Patrice Evra and Rafael have both left the club so Antonio Valencia and new recruit Luke Shaw will mostly be the ones playing these roles on either flank. Therefore the signing of Argentine international Marcus Rojo will be extremely important to provide some much needed cover in that department.
For the first in the Premier League, Manchester United will not amongst the top favourites to win the title. But that should not undermine their capability considering that more than half their players have been champions before. Moreover the absence of any European advents may well prove to be a blessing in disguise, leaving Van Gaal to focus solely on recapturing the Premier League. Yet it will be a most difficult task to regain the dominance they had over the same short span of time in which they lost it.