With the retirement of Sir Alex came the expected decline of Manchester United. David Moyes’ appointment as United boss was heralded as underwhelming by all but the hopeful Man United faithful, who clung to the belief that Sir Alex had left the club in safe hands. With no signings to bring the club forward, other than the deadline day deal for Marouane Fellaini, United started their new journey on the back foot. Moyes was unable to recover from that. With the club plummeting out of the Champions League spots the worry lines were beginning to appear upon the foreheads of those in the terraces at Old Trafford. Arise Louis Van Gaal.
Louis Van Gaal came into the Manchester United hot seat with the pedigree, the trophy collection and ego needed for a man to step into Sir Alex Ferguson’s shadow and not be eclipsed by it. He basically had everything Moyes did not have, with all due respect to Moyes. Before a team of his had even kicked a ball United fans were of the belief it was all going to be better than last season. Van Gaal had a buffer that bought him time in the job. He had to come in and fix what Moyes had done during his tenure. He spent big last summer; breaking the clubs transfer record on Angel Di Maria, a loan deal for Falcao, 30mill on the potential of Luke Shaw, top dollar on the versatility of Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo and midfield capabilities of Ander Herrera. By no means a quiet summer, which in other circumstances would have put immense pressure on a manager to challenge for the league title. Such was the disappointment of the previous season a top four spot was declared an acceptable achievement.
Now the game has changed. Van Gaal and his side have departed on their pre season tour to America with four new recruits for the upcoming season. The early signing of Memphis Depay showed intent from the Manchester side snapping up one of the premier young talents in European football. Big deals for midfield reinforcements with the purchase of Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton and Bayern Munich legend Bastian Schweinsteiger (#Schmidfield). They have also dealt with one of their problem positions signing promising right-back Matteo Darmian from Torino. If we are to believe the rumours the clubs summer signing spree isn’t over yet with a centre-back and striker believed to be needed. This coupled with all the money spent last season , fans and pundits alike will be of the belief that Van Gaal has now had ample money to create his team and right the perceived wrong of the regime before him.
Having recovered their seat at the Champions League table as quickly as they lost it, United fans will soon recover the expectations they held of the club prior to Ferguson’s departure. Football fans no matter how diplomatic they try to be for the most part are impatient no matter how much they try to downplay their expectation for the sake of their rivals. Chelsea were that far ahead of everyone else last season the expectation will be that the gap between them and the rest has closed. Arsenal look in good shape after their run in and FA Cup victory, plus the addition of Petr Cech – a front runner for signing of the summer – for me makes them contenders dependent on what further business they do this summer. Manchester City were there for the taking at one point last season and managed to recover, with little business done so far, fans may see the potential to overtake their noisy neighbours again.
The potential loss of David De Gea to Real Madrid will be the biggest task of the summer for United. But, the additions in other positions will look to mitigate the loss of one of the worlds best goal keeping talents. There are signings still needed at United to put them back atop of English football. The sale of Robin Van Persie to Fenerbache would suggest that a new striker is needed and the call for a new centre-back has been played on repeat in recent summers. Should Van Gaal make those further additions this summer there will be nowhere for the club to hide. They will have made the additions that everyone has pointed at as weak points and used as excuses.
What is certain is that Van Gaal won’t feel the pressure. His belief in himself is near the epitome of arrogance. He has nothing to prove to anyone other than himself. He believed when he took up his seat in the United dugout he was the man who was going to return United to their rightful spot amongst Europe’s elite. It was and still is exactly the remedy United needed after losing its biggest legend in Sir Alex Ferguson. Someone with a head big enough not to care who Sir Alex was and what he achieved at the club, while also believing whatever he did achieve “I am going to surpass it “. The media will be ready to round on Van Gaal should he not succeed this season as it is perceived they should. His confidence makes him a target, the smallest mistake and dip in form will be projected for us all to see.
How United do in the forthcoming season is interesting. Potentially, a new contender can be thrown into the title race or perhaps they will be amongst the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham again vying for a top four finish. What will be perceived as a success this season for United? What will be accepted as disappointment? How likely is it they are going to disappoint this season? Whatever the case it is going to be interesting to watch for fans of the club and rivals alike.