After some mid week European action, the Premier League was back in action and as usual there’s plenty to talk about.
The 2013/2014 Barclays Premier League season was one to forget for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Manchester United placed seventh – their worst finish in Premier League history.
It showed supporters and haters alike that Sir Alex Ferguson couldn’t be replaced.
For the people saying United were rebuilding, United don’t rebuild. A club that prestigious doesn’t rebuild, they demand quality 100 per cent of the time, and the fans showed this.
United showed their intent to return to the top with the appointment of Louis van Gaal as the new manager.
Boasting 19 titles over his managerial career, fans were rejuvenated by the news, and the future began to brighten for United. The 2014 World Cup added to this excitement, with van Gaal’s Dutch side dismantling the reigning world champions – Spain and reaching the semi-finals of the tournament without a single loss.
They were only behind for 61 minutes out of a total 690. Van Gaal’s trendsetting formation allowed the Dutch to be more comfortable going forward, knowing that they were always covered. Fans knew United were in for something special.
Since van Gaal’s appointment in May, United have been linked with almost every big name player in the world, even rumoured to be pushing for a return of Cristiano Ronaldo.
On June 26th, United had announced their first signing since Juan Mata, Spanish compatriot Ander Herrera. A long-time target of David Moyes, the midfielder provides United with a solid player in the holding midfield role that can play defence piercing passes from almost anywhere on the park.
It was on June 27 that united had two new players in two days with fans being introduced to the newest United signing, Southampton and England left-back Luke Shaw. At only 19 years of age, Shaw will give United an immediate high quality left-back while also giving them a future left-back.
Shaw epitomises what van Gaal wants in a left-back, a man who gets forward and attacks with the quality of a winger, and a guy strong enough to mark any striker he may need to defend.
A third signing was announced less than a week later with United signing 17-year-old Serbian goalkeeper, Vanja Milinkovic. Although relatively unknown, Milinkovic has made six appearances for his country’s under 17 national team and is a monster between the sticks, standing 6 foot 7 inches tall.
Louis van Gaal’s reign started with a bang, a 7-0 win over MLS powerhouses LA Galaxy. New signings, Herrera and Shaw showed exactly why they were worth the big bucks, with Shaw continuously joint the attack for United, providing that extra threat, and Herrera providing the strikers with an abundance of opportunities and finishing with three assists as his reward.
United fans were also provided with another future star at left-back with Reece James replacing Shaw for the second half and scoring two goals.
Following that big win, United entered the International Champions Cup. The path to the title begun with wins against Roma (3-2), Inter Milan (on penalties) and Real Madrid (3-1). With new signings Herrera and Shaw again showing their worth, alongside the likes of Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney and young-guns James, Blackett, Lingard and Keane.
In the final of the ICC, United came up against EPL rivals Liverpool. After going down 1-0 to a Steven Gerrard penalty, United rallied to win the contest 3-1. Handing Louis van Gaal his first piece of silverware as Manchester United manager.
Following the International Champions Cup, United were again linked with various defenders around the world, Marcos Rojo has formally asked to join United from his club, Sporting Lisbon. While defenders Mats Hummels and Mehdi Benatia seem to be slipping away from United’s grasp. Following the departures of United journeymen, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, United are left with a gaping hole at the back that needs to be filled if title contention is their goal.
United have also said to have put in multiple bids for Real Madrid winger, Angel Di Maria, and Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal, with nothing being accepted yet.
The final preseason game for van Gaal’s men was the first home game for all the new signings. A 2-1 win over La Liga side Valencia handed United a perfect 6-0 run through the preseason and gave them all the confidence they needed to push for a 21st First Division title and a return to European football.
United are fully capable of winning the title this season with the pieces they’ve acquired and the manager they have guiding them. Even after their worst finish, United will always remain a threat.