This season was always going to be an interesting one for Manchester United. After the disastrous reign of David Moyes, which saw United finish seventh in the league and more importantly miss out on a Champions League spot, the summer saw big changes at Old Trafford with the arrival of Louis Van Gaal as manager. Van Gaal brought experience to the club and acted quickly in the transfer market to bolster his squad. All of this left Tatts betting and similar companies scratching their heads about how to price their odds.
Spending big, but will it work?
Van Gaal did what David Moyes failed to do and brought in some much needed big names, splashing out £29 million on midfielder Ander Herrera and a further £30 million on England defender Luke Shaw. This was then followed up with the £59.7 million capture of Argentine winger Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid and the loan signing of Radamel Falcao from AS Monaco.
This left most United fans dreaming of a return to the top and expectations were high as the new season began. These expectations were quickly dashed as United certainly started the season like a tortoise, failing to claim a victory in their opening three league outings. Included in this was an opening day home defeat to Swansea, which had all the hallmarks of a performance from the previous season. This was followed by two draws, including a 1-1 draw with newly promoted Burnley.
Good up front but poor defensively
A first victory came in September with a 4-0 home win over Queens Park Rangers, another newly promoted team. With goals from new signings Di Maria and Herrera, it seemed that maybe Van Gaal’s new look team had settled down and their season could finally begin. This didn’t prove to be the case, as the following week United travelled to Leicester City, who despite being 3-1 down at one stage came back to win 5-3 with United’s defence collapsing.
With United left in 12th position with only 5 points, it seemed that their season was in ruins. However, full credit to Van Gaal and his squad, as they regrouped and embarked on a stunning run that would see them lose only once to champions Manchester City before the turn of the year. This run included an impressive 2-1 away victory to Arsenal and a crushing 3-0 home win over rivals Liverpool.
A season of ups and downs
There were still major question marks over United’s defence, which was still leaking goals. And the form and fitness of new star striker Radamel Falcao was also put under scrutiny, having only managed 3 goals in thirteen Premier League appearances. However they finished the year in third place and many critics were suggesting they could now be serious title contenders. Also the form of new boy Angel Di Maria gave the Old Trafford faithful reason to be optimistic for the second half of the campaign.
If United spent October, November and December as the hare, then they certainly reverted back to the tortoise at the turn of the year after drawing 1-1 away to Stoke City. They followed this up with a 1-0 home defeat to fellow Champions League contenders Southampton, which saw them slip back to their old ways with a very lacklustre display, leaving fans feeling they might not be there just yet.
It will certainly be a very interesting second half of the season for United and maybe they are not quite there. However, a strong second half of the season and finishing in the top four, which would see them return to the Champions League, should be seen as a success after the disaster of last season. Leaving plenty of reason for optimism for next season, where who knows, maybe they can go all the way.