Manchester United: serious title contenders.

Hate him, or love him, but Jose Mourinho has master-minded an impressive and convincing title win. Regardless of whether or not his tactics were unimaginative and dull, it’s simply erroneous to state that Chelsea were not worthy champions. The assured way in which Mourinho’s Blues conducted their success granted due praise and has sparked doubt as to whether his side face a serious threat in next year’s Premier League. It is the opinion of this writer that an attack on Chelsea’s defence does indeed materialise in the form of Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United.

This season has seen a return to the United of old, if not consistently; results are churned out despite relatively poor performances and Old Trafford is starting to regain its daunting atmosphere that vanished during Moye’s woeful period. Granted, scintillating and awe-inspiring football has not surfaced, and there still remains weaknesses that need to addressed, but LVG’s Red Devils are certainly a title contender for the 2015/16 season.

Such a claim can only be the case if a myriad of conditions are met. Firstly, LVG needs to establish a back four, or back five, that play together week in, week out. The fact that United have only conceded 36 goals this season, equivalent to that of rivals Manchester City, only paints a veneer of defensive stability and confidence. Repeatedly, the ever-impressive David De Gea has won his team mates 3 points by pulling off a string of speech-inhibiting saves. Thus, LVG has to first decide whether it will be a back four, or a back five: inter-change only leads to confusion, and inevitably weakness. Then comes the problem of who plays; young Luke Shaw, who has had an injury blighted season, shows enough promise to secure the left-back position. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones invariably have a mistake latent in their game, whilst Antonio Valencia lacks the defensive mind set required for right-back. Additions in the summer can eradicate these problems, although this particular business needs to be dealt with quickly: a gelled, back four whom understand one another and are comfortable playing with each other are integral to success, as displayed with Chelsea. It remains to be seen who will be bought it, but there is a plethora of defensive talent: Nathaniel Clyne and Varane would be my targets.

The Red’s midfield boasts an abundance of talent; Ander Herrera is a confident player that can dictate United’s forward play. However, this attacking tendency needs to be balanced by a defensive and cautious partner. Michael Carrick, when playing has fit this role perfectly, enabling the Spaniard to flourish. It is unfortunate that Carrick’s relatively old age, synonymous with injury, has impeded his prominence in the United side. Thus, someone who could adopt Carrick’s role needs to be brought in as I fear an injury plagued end to Carrick’s United career. Memphis Depay has recently been confirmed as joining LVG come June 1st; this is a good, exciting signing that will bode well for United’s attacking tendencies. Depay’s pace and skill needs to be matched on the opposite flank, and despite Mata’s recent revival, he simply doesn’t possess the skills required of left-winger. United have ready replacements in the form of revelatory Ashley Young, Adnan Januzaj and Angle Di Maria, with exciting prospects emerging from the Red’s famous youth system, such as Andres Pereria. Target man Fellaini can be effective in certain situations, yet he still doesn’t fit the necessary attributes of a ‘United player’.

Wayne Rooney has to head the attack, a born goal scorer who will provide you with 20+ goals a season, if deployed correctly. Thus, someone is needed to play behind Rooney, that can, much like Cesc Fabregas, create goal-scoring opportunities; Juan Mata can assume this role, but needs to prove he can produce the ‘goods’ on a regular basis. There exists a host of talent that can be purchased for this role, and LVG should certainly look to bring in someone of this nature.

If this is all addressed, then United will have a formidable squad that would certainly push for the title. A consistent formation needs to be required, and players need to be familiar with the idiosyncrasies of their team-mates. If all this is indeed established then LVG will have found the winning formula required to mount a serious assault on Chelsea’s Premier League holders status.

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