I am struggling to remember a time when the EPL app on my iPhone notified me of a Manchester United line-up that didn’t make me roll my eyes and flood me with that little bit of anxiety as I prepare for what should be my favourite part of the week.
The demise of Manchester United since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson is nothing short of frightening.
The glory years are now well and truly over, and the man charged with restoring success to Manchester United, Louis van Gaal, has failed.
To put it simply, the club is in crisis, and regardless of what van Gaal continues to suggest, he is not capable of rebuilding what he demolished in the first place.
Here is four step program Manchester United must follow if they are to compete for a Premier League title in the 2016/17 season:
1. Sack the manager
Not only have results been poor over the past two seasons, but the iconic brand associated with Manchester United has been substantially tarnished.
The person responsible for this is manager Louis van Gaal.
A club once famous for its free-flowing, attacking football is now fixated on a dull, possession-based game that fails to enthrall or excite.
Van Gaal’s footballing philosophy simply does not align with the club’s values, and is inoperable in the Premier League.
From a tactical point-of-view, he has been horrendous.
This was highlighted when United needed three second-half goals to turn around their Europa League Round of 16 tie against Liverpool, a competition United were in because of their group stage exit from the UEFA Champions League.
With three goals required, van Gaal’s moves included bringing on Antonio Valencia at right back, Matteo Darmian at left back and Bastian Schweinsteiger as a holding midfielder. Shambolic!
Louis van Gaal is an outdated disciplinarian and he must be sacked at the end of the season, regardless of United’s league position or the outcome of the FA Cup Final.
2. Appoint Jose Mourinho
While the appointment of Mourinho at Manchester United has been deemed inevitable since December, there is yet to be a decisive move from either party, or so it seems.
If United are to sack van Gaal, Mourinho is simply the best option available.
Sir Alex Ferguson has constantly expressed his admiration for Mourinho, and regardless of his misdoings, he remains one of the most revered managers in world football.
He, unlike van Gaal, knows how to win the Premier League, winning it three times across two different spells at Chelsea, as well as several other trophies during his career.
Even though Mourinho’s record of developing youth products is not ideal, and his fiery attitude can occasionally land him in hot water, it can be safely assumed that should United go down this path, the board will be forthright in ensuring that he assimilates with, and reconstructs the Manchester United brand.
If Mourinho is not in the picture, the next best option is Ryan Giggs.
While Giggs lacks senior managerial experience, he understands Manchester United.
The fans adore him, and it can only be assumed that he is completely unsatisfied with the clubs’ position at the moment, even as assistant manager.
3. Release under-performing players
Louis van Gaal has spent roughly $500 million since arriving at the helm, and it can be argued that the majority of this has been wasted.
He has sanctioned the sale of Angel Di Maria, Javier Hernandez, Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck among others. These have been huge errors, however, that has been done and cannot be changed.
While these were significant transgressions, the current squad is still strong, and a complete squad overhaul is not required.
There are three players I have identified that should be moved on during the summer:
The first is Antonio Valencia. He does not possess the skill or crossing ability to worry teams from his preferred position of right wing. Valencia has pace and he may be useful at another club, but that club should not be Manchester United next season.
The second player is Phil Jones. Jones came to United with the world at his feet, but has battled injury throughout the majority of his United career, and while he has shown glimpses, United should cash in on a man who would still hold reasonable value in the transfer market.
The third is Michael Carrick. Carrick has been an excellent anchor of the United midfield since arriving from Tottenham in 2006, but he is now 34, and it is time to move on.
4. Open the cheque book to fill gaping chasms
It is obvious that United need to open their cheque book again in the summer.
United’s squad is not horrendously far off, but they do lack genuine world-class talent.
United have been crying out for an imposing partnership at the back since the departures of both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, and now is time to act.
The best option is Raphael Varane from Real Madrid.
Mourinho is a huge admirer of Varane, and if he finds himself in the Old Trafford throne, expect United to pursue his services.
Varane is arguably the best young central defender in the world, and his arrival would allow United to form a truly formidable partnership at the back in Varane and Chris Smalling.
Currently, Juan Mata is played horrendously out of position on the right-flank. Jesse Lingard is a serviceable squad member, but lacks flair and creativity, and Anthony Martial is a supreme talent that would be more useful closer to goal.
One man that has been tragically underused in the creative positions is the supremely talented Adnan Januzaj.
The re-emergence of Januzaj under a new manager and new system could be the equivalent of a new signing due to van Gaal’s reluctance to use him.
United’s need class and creativity in the attacking half, and the perfect addition would be James Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is nothing short of brilliant, and appears to be unsettled at Real Madrid after failing to see eye-to-eye with firstly Rafael Benitez, and then Zinedine Zidane through out the season.
Another good addition to the United attacking force would be the Barclay’s Premier League Player of the Year, Riyad Mahrez.
Mahrez showcased his magic throughout the season with 17 goals and 11 assists, however after winning the Premier League in what is one of the greatest feats in sporting history, it seems unlikely that he would depart Leicester for a Premier League rival.
The final area that United need to address is striker.
Marcus Rashford has emerged as a serious talent, and will hopefully be a United star for years to come, but he cannot be solely relied upon to lead the line at Old Trafford.
The partnership of Martial and Rashford seems very promising, but the signing of a world-class striker is essential to United’s title charge next season.
The best option is Antoine Griezmann of Atletico Madrid.
While Atletico are in the Champions League final and United could not make it out of an easy group, the idea of reassembling a fallen giant may be enough to lure Griezmann across to Old Trafford.
Winning the Premier League title is a big ask, but if a team of Leicester City’s stature can pull of such an accomplishment, then surely England’s biggest club is capable.
But to do so, shrewd management between now and August is critical.