New Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal has already kick-started his Manchester United reign with 5 wins in an unbeaten US pre-season tour, which concluded with a 3-1 victory over rivals Liverpool to lift the International Champions Cup. The Dutchman, who led Holland to 3rd place in this year’s World Cup, has taken the same 3-5-2 system he used with the national team and implemented it at United, and the system has already proved to get United the results they want. United were phenomenal throughout pre-season, picking up victories over Liverpool, Roma and Champions League Winners Real Madrid, to name a few, how will LVG’s system look this season?
The back three clearly had problems in pre-season, and it has been well documented that LVG plans to add to his defensive group. United have been linked with several players, including former Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen, who has instead joined Barcelona on a 5-year-contract. Van Gaal needs to bring in at least 2 defenders to help Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans, who are the Red Devils’ only senior centre-backs, although LVG has also used Michael Keane and Tyler Blackett in pre-season. Daley Blind was mostly used as a left wing-back in the World Cup, but is capable of playing on the left side of 3 centre backs as well as in midfield. Raphael Varane is also a top class centre half, although if Madrid were to let him go LVG would face a bidding war with close friend and former colleague Jose Mourinho of Chelsea.
The likes of Anderson and Marouane Fellaini are certainly looking to be on their way out of Old Trafford this summer, leaving Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and new Spanish signing Ander Herrera in the midfield. Even Cleverley and Fletcher have been linked with moves away from United, and clearly additions are needed here. Ander Herrera has shown in pre-season that he can pick a killer pass and is a good signing, but United need a midfield warrior to break up play and help out the defence. Michael Carrick does this very well, but is he really good enough to pull the strings in a new-look United? Arturo Vidal is apparently on the verge of making a big-money move to Old Trafford, a signing which balances on whether or not United’s medical staff give the go-ahead after judging how Vidal has recovered from his recent knee surgery.
Van Gaal looks to favour the likes of Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and new signing Luke Shaw in the wing-back positions, but has publicly criticised Shaw’s fitness. Rafael is also looking to retain his position in the team, but with Ashley Young performing so well in pre-season and United spending so much money on Shaw, the Brazilian may struggle to claim his place back in the new Manchester United side. Marcos Rojo may have dropped a huge hint that he is joining United, after following the likes of Rooney, Januzaj and others on Instagram, and would be most likely to compete with Shaw at left wing-back. Daley Blind will also be tough competition for Shaw if he signs for United, although LVG will most likely play him in the back 3.
In attack, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie look to be the two dominant strikers again, with Juan Mata looking most likely to be the first-choice number 10 ahead of the likes of Shinji Kagawa and Adnan Januzaj. Mata, however, may have to compete with Angel Di Maria, if a £55m bid is accepted by Real Madrid. Javier Hernandez has been linked with a move away to several clubs, including Spanish Champions Atletico Madrid. Danny Welbeck will be fighting for a space up front this season as well as 21-year-old Wilfied Zaha, who does not possess the defensive capabilities to play at wing-back, and so will most likely be used as a central striker at United, if he remains there after this summer. That being said, do United need to sign a new striker? The papers have linked the Red Devils to PSG’s Edinson Cavani and, in my opinion it would be foolish not to offer up a bid for the Uruguayan, but it seems very unlikely that Cavani will leave PSG this summer. LVG likes to put his faith in youth, so maybe Welbeck and Zaha will get their chance to shine this season.