After a troublesome start to his Manchester United reign, Louis Van Gaal will be hoping that back to back home victories against West Ham United and Everton show that his United team are on the right track. Before the international break, United looked like a team which was slowly starting to gel together, however with bigger tests to come and still some clear deficiencies at the back United are clearly still a team in transition. Here are 5 things that have been clear to see in the opening weeks of the new season at Manchester United.
The Number 7 Jersey has a rightful owner
Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United struggled to find a replacement worthy of the Number 7 jersey. The likes of Michael Owen and most recently Antonio Valencia have tried and failed to live up to the jerseys historical name. Then along came a certain Angel Di Maria, since pulling on the famous No 7 jersey his game has excelled and brought a string of match winning performances. For many United fans it still seems surreal seeing Di Maria playing in the red of Manchester United. Many people doubted that Di Maria was worth the £58.7m fee from Real Madrid, but in 5 Premier League appearances, Di Maria has scored 3 and laid on a further 3 assists to fellow team mates. Having Di Maria in the United team frightens opposing players and his ability to drift past players and produce moments of magic makes him worthy of the famous No 7 shirt.
David De Gea will be crucial
With Manchester United’s defensive woes well documented, young goalkeeper David De Gea will be called upon on many occasions this season. With the summer departures of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, United lost all of their defensive leaders and experience. With no colossal defenders signed in the summer, it may take some time for United’s backline to become reliable and dominant once again. A lot of responsibility will fall on young Spaniard, David De Gea, after a troublesome start to his United career; De Gea has progressed into one of the best goalkeepers around. His most recent heroics came in United’s last league game against Everton. De Gea pulled off a string of world class saves which included a penalty save against Leighton Baines, that was Baines’s first penalty miss in the Premier League. De Gea’s heroics ensured that United came away with 3 vital points, however with big games coming up against the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea; De Gea may have to reproduce these kinds of performances on a regular basis this season with United’s defence looking vulnerable.
Daley Blind Unsung Hero
Daley Blind’s signing went under the radar at Manchester United, with the blockbuster signings of Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao many have forgotten that Blind has slotted straight into the United side. Blind’s ability to break up the play and play simple and effective football has bolstered United’s midfield. United have lacked a Blind type of player for a long time, it could be argued that United haven’t managed to replace Owen Hargreaves. With big tests to come for United, Blind will be integral for United’s chances. With Blind seemingly a certain in Van Gaal’s side it allows the attacking players the freedom to roam, knowing Blind will be disciplined and screen the back line. Blind will very rarely prove to be the match winner for United but his role in this United team is pivotal and Van Gaal has placed a lot of faith in his fellow Dutchman.
Current Team possesses bags of goals
Manchester United last year not only looked like a team that struggled to score goals but also seemed stricken of an identity of how to play the game. Nevertheless under the guidance of Van Gaal, the attacking options have been bolstered significantly with the likes of Herrera, Falcao and Di Maria all joined the club. United now have a riches of options in the attacking positions and with a suspect defence, United’s philosophy seems focused on attractive and attacking football. With United facing Chelsea and Manchester City in the coming weeks it will be interesting to see how Van Gaal sets his side up and whether he decides to play all of his attacking stars in the big games.
Youngsters are being bedded in
When academy graduates Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck left the club this summer many felt that the days of young players been given the chance at Old Trafford were long gone. Contrary to those claims, Van Gaal has gone on to hand senior debuts to seven of United’s young prospects, with defenders Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair being given the opportunities to stake their claim in the United side. Bringing young players through at Manchester United is something that is instilled in the clubs DNA. Van Gaal doesn’t seem fazed by throwing young players into the mix and taking a risk, with the likes of Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson being consistent figures in the U21 side, the club’s future remains bright. On the other hand, with United only remaining in two competitions this season, the likes of Januzaj may have to sit tight and be patient.
Manchester United fans have reason to be optimistic with life under Louis Van Gaal, when David Moyes was in charge there was no clear philosophy of how to play the game. Under Van Gaal the teams looks stronger and players seem on board with the Dutchman’s ideologies. Additionally it’s imperative that everyone at the club stays grounded and realises that there is a huge amount of work ahead in order for the club to reach greatness once again. With bigger tests to come United will be punished if they show the naivety that they have recently shown against the likes of Leicester City and MK Dons. The positives outweigh the negatives, but the team is by no means back to its position of power under Sir Alex Ferguson.