As summer approaches, and the sun sets over Manchester United’s first season under the stewardship of Louis van Gaal, thoughts turn to the summer transfer activity going in and out of Old Trafford.
It’s worth remembering that the disarray inherited by the manager after the David Moyes era was one that provided no simple answer, but, at least now he is aware of the questions that need answering, and there is no manager in the game more experienced at handling that kind of transition, as van Gaal has proved in the past.
Question marks have come over his recent decisions to field Wayne Rooney in midfield and also drop Robin van Persie further back against West Brom, isolating Marouane Fellaini as the sole centre foward, though United really ought to have picked up a result on Saturday evening, after missing a number of chances including a penalty. Sometimes, teams are afflicted by a poor run of form and confidence, and perhaps in the latter stages at the weekend, we saw the frustration of that in some of the places, with snatched chances and wrong decisions taken by the substitutes.
It remains a big challenge for the club to qualify for the Champions League next season with a resurgent Crystal Palace, an in-form Arsenal and a Hull City team likely to still be battling for their lives on the final day, but even if they get through those games, the squad remains in need of a huge overhaul.
Many have cited Michael Carrick’s absence as the key reason for United’s swift decline in form but an alternative theory is that his injury and subsequent removal from the team has simply exposed United’s poor central defence. It offered little resistance to the admittedly brilliant Eden Hazard and Paddy McNair was found wanting at Goodison Park with a meek effort at a challenge for the first goal which influenced the shape of the game.
Chris Smalling’s form has improved tremendously but compare the back four that ended the game against West Brom (Valencia, Smalling, McNair, Young) to the one that started arguably the last major game of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign – against Real Madrid – (Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra) it gives some impression of the transition the club have had to go through. So, although retaining the services of David De Gea is of importance, it is arguably more important that United sort out what is in front of the goalkeeper, lessening the reliance on the stopper and the player acting as a screen in midfield.
United are linked with hundreds of names every year with many inside the club also linked with exits and this run of defeats has even given some cause to question Van Gaal. You can get the latest odds on all of these sorts of events with Football betting at William Hill and where, in the past, we may not have expected huge change at Old Trafford, last summer’s transfer window showed us that we may have cause to expect the unexpected, and with the various on-pitch problems in the team, we may even expect a similar splurge in terms of money.
There are, at least, signs, in the fantastic glimpses of form and football, that Louis van Gaal is still the right man for the job – the future is still orange.