Pre-season is now over, the new kit has been launched, get the beers in the fridge, have the snacks ready and gather friends and family for the 2015/16 football season to begin!
United went to the States for their pre-season where they faced Club America, San Jose Earthquakes, Barcelona and Paris St-Germain and suffering one loss and three wins. This was a chance for the squad to gain fitness and built up the team confidence to prepare for the Barclay’s Premier League season. The tour saw new signings Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Darmain and Memphis don the red shirt. Van Gaal also took a few youngsters Pereira, Blackett, Januzaj, Lingard, Wilson and Johnstone to the US as he looks to utilise and give experience to the academy to break into the first team.
Although, signing the right players to fill in positions, there was plenty of outgoings at the club with the most noticeable exit to Van Persie who helped achieved the club get the 20th league title. In the past two years, he had suffered setbacks with injuries and could not get many games under Van Gaal last season. Nani was loaned out last season and the club decided his United career was no more. Fans favourite and a player who had passion for the club and came through the academy Rafael has left the club to join Lyon and he has selected to wear the no20 as he helped United win the 20th league title, one word = legendary. Adding to the exits was Falcao (on-loan), Cleverley, Amos, Thorpe and Janko. Much of the talking and summer speculation has surrounded De Gea as he is continuingly being linked with a move to Real Madrid, it is Woodward’s stance of not selling unless Sergio Ramos is included in the deal. But this looks unlikely to happen with Ramos looking for a new contract and United signing goalkeeper Romero on a free.
In the past week, the future of record breaking British transfer fee signing Angel Di Maria’s future is cleared up with the club agreeing with PSG for a deal worth £44.4m. He is currently having his medical and looks to join the French league champions after one season in England. He started off well from his move from Real Madrid and in the second half of the season, he was not getting any starts since his home got burgled. Some would say his career in England would be a failure to not prove himself on the big stage. So now the Van Gaal has to decide whether he wants to search for a replacement and of which calibre. A world class and proven performer in Gareth Bale or Pedro who has plenty of winner’s medals? So we will have to see if there any more incomings until the transfer window closes.
From last season’s finish of fourth place, the expectation for the red devils will be to improve and possibly challenge for the title. Is it too much to ask for? Well, with the players at the club and the way performances against the top six, it looked like United were capable of challenging at the top. It will be interesting to see how Chelsea defend their crown. However, there is Man City who have quality players but tend to drift away when they are involved in Champions League and they lose their focus. Once again, Arsenal will be favourites and they have been lifting up silverware with the FA Cup and that can galvanise the players to go for the league. Then there is Liverpool and Tottenham, who both will want to finish in the top four. Ideally, United should be aiming to finish second and become dominant and control their games.
Obviously, the embarrassing knock out from MK Dons in the Capital One Cup left Van Gaal answering questions about his philosophy and it was a surprise the team had fallen on its face. So this season, if the team can go further than they did, it would be a chance to give players game time and rotation to the squad. It took old boy Welbeck to knock out Man Utd at Old Trafford in the FA Cup Sixth Round match when Arsenal were winners on the night. It was a mistake from the back that allowed Welbeck to score. The club have not won the FA Cup for 11 years and the fans would love an outing at Wembley again. So if United fail to win the Premier League at least winning one of the domestic cups can add to the trophy cabinet.
UEFA Champions League
United will find out on Friday who they will face in the Play-Off where they are top-seeded in the final qualifying round. The target last season was to get the club in the Champions League and this is another step to compete in the competition. If United win the two-legged tie then they would qualify for the group stage of the competition. Failure to win this round, the team will enter the Europa League in the group stage. Here’s hoping United do qualify for the group stages, the next target would be qualify to the knock-out stages and anything else would be an added bonus.
As for the players, they will be playing in their preferred positions and it looks likely Rooney will be playing upfront. In the strikers department, it is only Rooney, Hernandez and Wilson so Rooney would be the starter and he would be expected to get 20+ goals in all competitions. The midfield is packed with experience and quality. Schweinsteiger will add his European experience be being the general in midfield. Schneiderlin has Premier League experience and will put in those tackles to win the ball back. Darmian looks promising at right back and will be a starter. On the other flank, you have Shaw who has stepped up his fitness and prove his worth by playing consistently. Can Memphis make his impact immediately or will it take him time to settle that has to be seen.
There will be plenty of changes in formations, tactics and starting line ups to prepare for as many games as possible. It will be something the coaching staff will look into and making sure they are well prepared to face teams and arranging travel and training. With many ups and downs to go through during the season, it will be another emotional rollercoaster ride where anything can happen. Let the season begin!