There’s nothing boys like me doing more than talking football, so this will probably only appeal to the like-minded but here are some end of season thoughts on Man Utd.
The final league position was about as expected; maybe third was possible if not for some woeful spells – but a lot has been learned and a big summer lies ahead. However, like most fans, if you’d have offered 4th and a return to the Champions League at the start of the season I would have taken it.
Who would have thought on September 1st with Di Maria and Falcao coming in they would be held out of the team by Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini come end of season?
I will be really disappointed if David De Gea leaves given that he is in any persons list of top 3 keepers in the world at the moment. To have come through and have made good on the promise, the plan was that investment in time and patients would be rewarded with a long career at United. Unfortunately the Iberians all idolise Madrid and Barcelona and if the opportunity arises he is clearly going to leave. The Valdes signing was telling at the time in this respect; whilst rumours that De Gea was not keen on extending his contract and suggestions the deal away was already done. I haven’t caught any of Valdes’ performances for the reserves, so I’ve no idea if his Barcelona form has returned or if LVG is going to look elsewhere, but when De Gea leaves he leaves big boots to fill, and an experienced keeper is needed to come in.
Smalling has come along this year, I’d say he’s ready to push on and finally live up to his potential next year. Not sure if all fans would agree with that, but I see flashes of brilliance in his performances since New Year. I think Jones & Rojo will make way for Hummels who will come straight in to partner Smalling as first choice; they themselves will be first reserve to fill in if needed. Hard to see a role for Jonny Evans at this moment in time, with Blackett & McNair ready to fill in when, as has happened in at least the last four seasons 4 or 5 first choice centre halves get injured.
Premonition: Evans to Stoke
I know people are saying the Jury is out with Luke Shaw and he’s been in and out with injury and fitness concerns but I like him and think he’s done enough to get the nod for 1st choice LB slot next season. LVG was quick to call him out last summer on his fitness but has backed him on a few occasions in press conferences since. Blind and Rojo will deputise Shaw as needed, so I don’t foresee any signings in this area.
The RB position is where I think we need to sign someone.
Sorry Sir Alex, but I think it was clear to all that Rafeal wasn’t going to be good enough 4 or 5 years ago – it’s hard to believe but he’s been at the club since 2008! Valencia has done his best, he is a grafter but is not a RB, and we can’t go into next season without reinforcing. All signs seem to point to Nathaniel Clyne. Not sure if Valencia stays, he’ll run and run for you but I wouldn’t be surprised if two RB options come in, or we see Jones move to RB in pre-season where he competes with whoever the RB signing is.
For my money Central Defence was easily the weakest area in the early 14/15 season but with the eventual reversion to a back four, and with Jones & Smalling slowly and gradually improving and forming some understanding it’s become clear (to me at least) central midfield is actually the area that needs the most improvement.
Carrick and Herrera are the only viable central midfield selections at present and Carrick rarely goes a full season without a few niggles and isn’t getting any younger; plus as Sir Alex would often share, he starts the season slow. With CL next year, a minimum of two central players are needed, my dream selection there would be Pogba and Modric, but there are plenty of top class players in Europe who could come in, and though value is normally a concern, it seems not this year. Strootman and Vidal were tipped last year, but were/are concerns because of big injuries. I would hope we’ve got some youngsters ready to step up or some young talent could be scouted to back up to an established, senior pick from four… Andrea Pereira seems to be the most likely to break through.
Carrick and Herrera were just starting to form a good partnership a few weeks ago before Carrick went out injured and Utd then lost three in a row. If two big names came in and if Carrick is slow to get going again it could be a fresh pairing starting in August.
Wide Men & #10
Out wide it seems with Young singing a new contract and Memphis Depay coming in two of the likely four for the wide positions are settled. I like Mata, and if we could get the best out of Di Maria this should be a lock, with seemingly no role for a returning Nani. It seems like Di Maria is looking for a way out, so we’ll have to see, but if his head ain’t right and PSG want to open their cheque book maybe there’s room for a rethink.
I can’t see a deal for Bale materialising and suspect the agent might be angling for a pay rise on behalf of his client. I seem to recall there was talk of him joining Real on a ‘starter’ contract, not parity with Christiano and that makes me think the agent and/or player decided they want to change that. Let’s not get into it with CR7 either, would love to have him back but not for big or even medium money. I am looking forward to Depay; don’t want to chuck pressure on the lads shoulders, but the inevitable comparisons will be drawn and would love to see some speed and creativity out wide.
At #10, it kind of depends on who gets the nod up front because if it’s RVP, or someone new Rooney would drop deep and it automatic at #10. Mata and Fellaini would cover; though my own personal assessment of Fellaini’s abilities and likely future contributions are not as bright as the football hacks seem to think in recent weeks.
Assuming a fluid 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 and an evolution of the recent set up it seems there will be one central striker. I have a suspicion Rooney will revert to #10 because he can drop into Midfield if needed. Rumours have it that Falcao might stick around until January, but I think that’s more agent talk to drum up alternatives. Not sure on young Wilson either.
If there’s one up, there needs to be three in the squad, question is whether to count Rooney – and worth saying what LVG may do is not what I would do.
So RVP will stay, and I would like to see a big money move for Harry Kane who for year one rotates in for some home games and gets a chance to develop and acclimatise.
I would personally go Rooney for first choice and look again at #10, with RVP and either Kane or Wilson competing. Though I am a big fan of Chicharito it seems LVG isn’t so I don’t think he will factor; and though I like him I’d not be convinced he’s right for the central lone striker role.
If we got to full strength with all top targets coming in, have a great pre-season and all new players and positions gel, then the Premier League and a run in Champions League would be possible. But in the history of football the extent of such changes have never yielded instant results in the same season therefore it is soooo unlikely that it really is my wildest dreams.
Considering also that LVG is a tinker-man, then the first half of the year will be about ‘the philosophy’ again, and a second half run will whet the appetite again for LVG year 3. Perhaps, just perhaps if still in the CL, a rise in form in later season may coincide with the latter phases and priorities, strategy and squad rotation might shift for a strong showing and dream return to the competition. I’m not expecting it, I said in 2009 I thought United would not win the CL until 2017, which would be nine years after the last CL trophy, which itself was nine years after that famous treble – that’s my little bit of football voodoo.