The Implications of Manchester United’s Opening Day Defeat

There weren’t many people in the country that would have given Swansea City a chance of getting a result at Old Trafford on Saturday. With the arrival of Louis Van Gaal there was cause for optimism for many United fans, especially after a successful pre-season. Many thought a victory on Saturday was a formality with an early opportunity to put aside the home demons of last year. After last season’s travesty, coupled with David Moyes misfortune, United needed to get off to a good start. However, Van Gaal’s Premier League debut got off to the worst possible start. Manchester United were beaten 2-1 and Van Gaal was given a rude awakening to life in the Premier League, something which Brendan Rodgers had previously warned.

Van Gaal

United had a relatively successful pre-season, but pre-season is nothing compared to the vigour’s of the Premier League. Time will tell whether this opening day defeat will prove to be the turning point in United’s recent misfortune and also if the United hierarchy will finally realise that heavy investment is required to get their team competing with the elite on the pitch. Ed Woodward stated 6 months ago that in this forthcoming transfer window Manchester United would move like they never previously have, reiterating that United could match Madrid and Barca’s spending power and break transfer records. However, only two weeks remain in the transfer window and many United fans believe that the hierarchy are not meeting their promises and therefore their team isn’t being given the best opportunity to compete with the elite. Only Exeter City have done less transfer dealings than Manchester United this summer, a fact made worse considering Exeter City are rumoured to be under a transfer embargo. If no further transfer business takes place at Old Trafford then Woodward and the Glazers should expect a vicious backlash and a possible protest for the Glazers to walk once again. Everyone associated with United would of thought that last season’s laughable transfer business was a one off, especially the way that Moyes and Woodward publically pursued Cesc Fabregas for the entire summer, only for the deal to bear no fruit. It seems that lessons from last season have not been learned. It is almost as though United struggle to actually conclude any transfer deals.

Woodward and Glazers

On the other hand, United have made a new signing in the past few days, with the arrival of Argentine defender Marcos Rojo. Rojo becomes United’s 3rd summer signing after Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, for a reported fee of £16 million and with Nani moving to Sporting Lisbon on loan for the season. Rojo was selected in the World Cup team of the year and his ability to play at wing back and centre back could fit into Van Gaal’s 3-4-1-2 philosophy. United will hope that Rojo is only the start of imminent arrivals, because as of right now the only arguable world class players that United possess are De Gea, Mata, Rooney and Van Persie. Arguably there are young players that could develop and emerge into the world class bracket i.e. Januzaj, Jones, Shaw and others, but right now United need world class reinforcements.

Rojo

The immediate problem for the Glazers is that if United don’t make an immediate return to the Champions League then the financial implications will start to take its toll, with the recent announcement of the Adidas kit sponsorship deal almost certainly being the first to dramatically change. The reported £75m generated from the deal could well plummet to £35m if United fail to hold up there end of the bargain, which is reportedly Champions League qualification for the 2015/16 season. Taking into account the broadcasting rights and sponsorship deals earned through participating in the Champions League, United would be losing out on significant amounts of money.

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It’s simple the Glazers have to spend big money in this short period of time in order for United to keep pace with the elite in the long term. In the 2-1 defeat to Swansea, Van Gaal’s selected centre backs were Smalling, Jones and Blackett and it was evident that there wasn’t a commanding figure martialling the backline. United teams of the past have had defensive leaders such as Bruce, Pallister, Stam, Ferdinand and Vidic but a player of that calibre and presence is currently absent from the current United defenders. There was a lot of talk throughout the World Cup that United would pursue Borussia Dortmund centre half Mats Hummels, however that never materialised as neither Klopp and Hummels were interested in entering negotiations. There has also been recent confusion surrounding Roma defender Mehdi Benatia, with Jim White of Sky Sports seemingly believing that the Roma star was Old Trafford bound. Nothing concrete has developed on the Benatia front and with Rojo’s arrival, the only other rumoured defensive target seems to be Daley Blind. Blind has the ability to play at wing back, centre back and holding midfield, which are currently all of the positions United are currently lacking bodies and quality. For me a player that had a great World Cup with Van Gaal and has proven Premier League pedigree is Aston Villa centre back Ron Vlaar. I believe Vlaar is a viable option and in my opinion United should consider making a move for him.

Smalling and Jones

Additionally one area that requires significant reconstruction is the central midfield area, which has required improvement for the last 5 years or so. The current crop consists of Herrera, Cleverley, Fletcher, Fellaini, Anderson, Powell and Carrick. Unfortunately for Carrick and Van Gaal, Carrick picked up an ankle injury in training which could possibly see him miss 2-3 months of action. Powell has great potential and needs games after a successful loan spell at Wigan last year, but he now needs to progress and hopefully get some Premier League games under his belt. Fellaini and Anderson are deemed surplus to requirements, however United would have to accept a huge cut down price for what they paid for the two players. Furthermore, Cleverley has never pushed on in a United shirt or nailed down a regular starting berth. Fletcher has managed to overcome a serious illness and get himself back into the first team picture, but the fact of the matter is that Fletcher is never going to be able to get back to the standards he once set. Personally, I think Fletcher’s situation is of particular shame as he was such a gifted and vital piece of the jigsaw. The new boy Herrera is a promising player, but he appears as though he needs a powerhouse next to him. If a player in the mould of Vidal was purchased then I believe Herrera would truly flourish. The most frustrating thing for United fans is that United had that type of player already within their ranks in the form of Paul Pogba. Pogba is the type of player that United are currently crying out for and losing him on a free to Juventus looks like a particularly poor piece of business given the current situation.

Much has been made about United’s summer pursuit of Aturo Vidal and for United fans, it seems very similar to the Fabregas saga last year. With the days ticking down before the transfer window slams shut, United need a signing which will make the rest of the world stand up and take notice. If the Vidal saga does prove to be unsuccessful, United then have to react and fast. Players such as Khedira, Strootman and William Carvalho are all quality players which would improve the central midfield area significantly. Angel Di Maria is a player that has been rumoured with Manchester United; due to the signings of James Rodrgiuez and Toni Kroos at Real Madrid it has led to Di Maria possibly being pushed out to balance the books. Di Maria had arguably his best season to date in the white of Real Madrid last year. It’s evidently clear that United need to strengthen in other areas, but what a coup it would be for Manchester United to sign someone with the calibre of Angel Di Maria. It’s that type of player which could well make other stars in world football stand up and think ‘well if he’s willing to take a year out from Champions League then so am I’. When players like Di Maria become available you sign them and then find a way to fit them into your team, such is their quality.

di maria

These next eleven days are crucial for Manchester United and if they do manage to get the right players in, fans will feel a lot more optimistic about the season ahead. But, if the Glazers and Woodward fail to produce in the transfer market, there may be more than a simple #GlazersOut trending on twitter. Action could well be taken by the fans however the reality is the Glazers have recently stated that they want 5 more years at the helm of Manchester United. When the #GlazersOut day does come, it is looking more likely that the Glazers will be looking to sell to investors at a great profit, than giving in to the fans demands and the disbelief at what has happened to their beloved Manchester United.

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