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OPINION: What should we expect next season?

Last season was one of the most painful in recent memory for Manchester United however it ended with a fair degree of contentment. The Scousers slipping up in the title race (PUN INTENDED) set the ball rolling, followed by the sacking of David Moyes and then the appointment of Louis Van Gaal, capped it all off. Manchester United again faces a summer of change and to be honest this time … excitement.

A new manager appointed, a new backroom staff, question marks hanging over many of the players in the squad and most painfully for the first time in 19 years the club will not dine with Europe’s elite in the Champions League next season. A depressing fact made even worse given the fact that there will be no European football at Old Trafford next season, not even the much maligned Europa League.

The presence of the newly appointed Dutch master Louis Van Gaal has softened the blow and has offered significantly more hope and excitement than David Moyes did this time last year. The appointment of Van Gaal, a man of great experience and an ego the size of Manchester United Football Club was the logical choice. “I am who I am: confident, arrogant, dominant, honest, hard-working and innovative” proclaimed the Dutchman. It’s difficult to argue given his CV.”

Success has come naturally to Van Gaal. His trophy laden exploits with Bayern Munich, Barcelona, AZ Alkmaar and Ajax Amsterdam have proven he has the credentials to rival any manger in Europe. His spell at Ajax was the stuff of legends, taking a team of incredibly gifted young players to rulers of Europe (sounds a bit similar to the philosophy of another team? Hmm). One thing is sure, we will not be spending this summer questioning if he has the pedigree for the World’s biggest football club.

What will be discussed in pubs, lounges and among gatherings of “Mancs” worldwide is just what are we to expect next season? Would a top four finish suffice? Would a title challenge be adequate or is glory the only option. It’s as interesting a debate as any given the fact that the transfer window will almost certainly affect this outcome.

It’s pretty safe to say that the club failed last summer. A chastening experience greeted both Ed Woodward and David Moyes, who both appeared out of their depth. Thankfully Moyes is now history but Woodward remains, but not without mounting pressure for him to deliver this time around. His public pursuit of big name players last summer, further magnified his failure and surely he has to deliver this time around. Lessons would no doubt have been learned and it’s time for Woodward to redeem himself. The fans expect more!

The squad is in dire need of fresh impetus and a sprinkling of quality that was once in abundance. Midfield and defence are areas that require the major overhaul. Replacing the legendary duo of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic , the class and artistry of the greatest midfielder of his generation Paul Scholes, our greatest ever player Ryan Giggs and a midfielder as formidable and destructive as our former leader Roy Keane is an unenviable task awaiting Van Gaal.

The biggest question being the system United will use next season. Van Gaal is a disciple of “Total Football” and a 4-3-3 formation. The current Dutch team use a 3-5-2 system but this is mostly to account for the loss of Kevin Strootman and not something Van Gaal is likely to experiment with at United.

A potential clash regarding the position of two of our biggest name players in Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney could arise considering the 4-3-3 can only accommodate one striker. Will either one be happy playing out wide or in midfield? Van Gaal has a penchant for fast tricky wingers something Shinji Kagawa and Juan Mata are not. This could potentially cause them to play out wide and be wasted in my opinion. Do Valencia, Young and Nani have the ability to deliver out wide? This remains to be seen. Van Gaal once stated:

 “I’m not the kind of coach who just goes out and buys players for the sake of it. I’m a coach who wants to – and can – improve players”. This will provide some of the under-performing players in our squad hope of a future at the Club.”

So then what do we expect? Well to begin with the enthralling football missing for some years, even in the latter years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign is set to return in all its glory. Youth will still play a prominent role given our managers history with promoting homegrown talent. In Wilson, Lingard and Lawrence we certainly have a good collection of kids awaiting a chance to break through. A greater control of football matches and less counter attacking football is to be expected. We expect the phrase “That is a stupid question” to be brandished to a few journalists over the course of a season.

Returning to the glitz and glamour of the Champions League is the utmost priority, missing out for a season is an anomaly but should this linger on for a second season it could pose serious questions about our future.

Signings remain the key. An influx is expected, an influx of world class “ready made for the biggest stage” is what will only do for the club given their current plight. Failure to acquire these players will see the club face an uncertain future and questions about their ambition.

Manchester United are one of the world’s wealthiest clubs, a club of such rich history and tradition, a stadium that is simply one of the most atmospheric and picturesque in European Football not to mention one of the biggest, and now once again a club managed by a massive name, a maverick, a madman and a legend. So there is much to sell to potential signings. With a massive transfer chest made available a summer of excitement awaits us.

Should the addition of world class footballers in defence and midfield become a reality, a full tilt at the title is not, by any means, an impossibility. The distraction of Europe would no longer be a burden, not that playing Europe’s elite at the Theatre of Dreams is a burden. This offers us a chance to focus fully on the title. Liverpool is an example of this. A relatively ordinary squad aside form one world class player was taken so close to the title only to be denied by their own Captain Courageous (HaHa). United in comparison have a far superior squad man for man and with a proven winner, a title celebration at Old Trafford come the end of next season is not beyond us. Upon his appointment our manager said:

“To work as a manager for Manchester United, the biggest club in the world, makes me very proud.

“I have managed in games at Old Trafford before and know what an incredible arena Old Trafford is and how passionate and knowledgeable the fans are.

“This club has big ambitions; I too have big ambitions. Together I’m sure we will make history.”

His boldness is infectious and we can start believing again. Opposition fans the world over have had their one season to laugh at and mock us, the club will never die and next season true to history, WE WILL BE BACK!

By Delon Naicker

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