What does Van Gaal need to do to reclaim United’s elite status?

It has been a tough couple of seasons for Manchester United fans who were so used to success they had almost forgotten how defeat tasted. After Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, they were brought back down to Earth with a real thud and had to endure a terrible season under David Moyes. It was a season where they didn’t earn a Champions League place for the first time in years. It was no surprise when Moyes was sacked and the owners brought in the highly experienced Louis van Gaal. What was a surprise to some United fans, though, was that this didn’t bring instant success for them again. The Dutchman has had a bit of a topsy-turvy season but all in all it has been quite promising. Now a look at what he needs to do to get United back up there rubbing shoulders with the best of the best again.

At the start of the 2014/15 Premier League campaign, United fans had a lot to be excited about. Their new manager hadn’t sat back in the transfer window and had brought in some seriously big players. Angel di Maria became the Premier League’s most expensive signing and Radamel Falcao joined on loan. Along with a few other players, including Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo, it looked like really good business. Unfortunately things didn’t quite pan out the way many people had expected and during the first half of the season fans were getting worried that Van Gaal wasn’t the man for the job after all.

The Dutchman had to try out so many different formations and squad changes until it all finally clicked and they put a great winning run together to finish fourth. Just one qualifying match to go and they should be back in the Champions League. So not a bad start for Van Gaal, all things considered. But now he is faced with a few very tough questions. Should he cut his losses with Di Maria and admit that it didn’t quite work out or should he give him another season to prove himself? After the signings last summer that didn’t turn out for the best, who does he need to sign this season to avoid making the same mistakes again?

Angel di Maria

After making a name for himself as a star in both the Argentina and Real Madrid teams, Di Maria looked like a perfect signing for United last summer. He had a very promising start as well, showing flickers of sheer brilliance, along with a few assists and goals. Now, nearly a year on, he has been linked with a move to PSG after struggling to find a place in the first team towards the end of the season. Rumour has it, though, that he will remain at the club after team-mate Marcos Rojo told newspapers he had been taking English lessons with his fellow Argentine. Paul Scholes has also stated that he thinks Van Gaal should keep the midfielder. He said that if they are to compete in the Champions League, they will need that kind of experienced player.

It is so often the case that players struggle in their first season in the Premier League. It is a totally different league to that which Di Maria has played in before and the transition to settling in to a new country can be difficult as well. He should definitely be given another season to prove his worth and justify the price tag. And as Scholes quite rightly said, they are going to greatly need the Champions League experience. If you need a reminder of just how good he can be, just check out the link below.

Another signing who didn’t live up to the hype was Falcao. When United acquired him last summer he was on loan with an option to buy at the end of it, but it is highly unlikely that they will take that option now. It is a shame that the Colombian flopped so badly because if he had managed to carry on the form he had enjoyed before his injury woes prior to the World Cup, he would have been a seriously exciting striker to watch. Unfortunately that form hasn’t re-emerged yet but with Chelsea showing some interest in the striker, maybe Jose Mourinho will be able to get the best out of him.

This transfer window

There is no doubt that Van Gaal needs to make some serious moves during this summer’s transfer window and there is already a lot of speculation on what big names will be moving in to Old Trafford. One issue that needs addressing straight away is the lack of Champions League experience in the current team. Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia are the only three remaining players from the 2011 final loss to Barcelona. Which was around the last time the club were considered elite. If Di Maria and Van Persie can find their form again, they add some experience but some signings need to be made to improve that further.

Rumours that are flying about include a move for Borussia Dortmund’s central defender, Mats Hummels, and Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger. These are two signings that would provide an excellent backbone to the team and who also have a lot of experience of the Champions League. But how likely it is that they will be snapped up by United is a different story. In terms of the defensive midfield positions it looks a lot more likely that they will try and swoop in for Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin who has had a great season and looks to be a future star. This would probably be a good signing for the team who have looked quite weak in this area when Carrick has been missing, but it wouldn’t solve the problem of adding more European experience.

If Falcao and Van Persie are to leave this summer then a good signing in this department is required. Some pundits are speculating about a move for Karim Benzema or Gonzalo Higuain, who both have a lot of experience in the Champions League and could easily dominate defences in the Premier League. United have already agreed to sign Memphis Depay (see below) from PSV Eindhoven. The 21-year-old banged in 22 goals last season and looks promising, but they will need more talent than that if they want to push for a Champions League win.

Make or break

It is fair to say that this summer transfer window and the decisions Van Gaal makes could decide his future at United. The fans and the owners are used to being classed amongst the elite teams in the world and they hope that the fact that they aren’t currently will be rectified very soon. During the next campaign, United must be pushing for a title challenge and must also cement themselves on the world stage once again. It is safe to say that there will be big bids being made for the very best players in the world.