There is a very different feeling around Old Trafford. The gloom of last season has lifted and been replaced with a wave of optimism; the empire is about to strike back.
That change is all down to the arrival of one man – Louis van Gaal.
The Dutchman has swept into the club off the back of a World Cup campaign where his already supreme reputation was enhanced by a series of tactical masterstrokes that ensured an un-fancied Netherlands side claimed third place.
Now, without a holiday, he has set about putting United back together after one disastrous season under David Moyes.
No Champions League
As a result of last season’s struggles, Van Gaal will have no European football in his first season in English football and the overriding objective for the year ahead will be to return the club to the Champions League at the first time of asking.
Pre-season has been an overwhelming triumph. United have taken on top class opposition on their USA tour and have won every game, beating the likes of Real Madrid, Roma, Inter Milan and arch rivals Liverpool on their way to being crowed International Champions Cup winners.
That is in stark contrast to last year, where new manager Moyes oversaw a dreadful preseason – which rather set the tone for what would follow.
So all is rosy in the United garden it would seem. The players appear happy and rejuvenated, seemingly invigorated by the arrival of Van Gaal and have adapted to the new system of 3-5-2 that has been introduced.
The need for additions
United have added Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw to their squad from last season but the truth is that much more refreshment of the playing staff is needed if Van Gaal is going to make the Red Devils genuine title contenders.
If they are to play with three central defenders, signings have to be made. Currently United have three recognised centre-backs in Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling – all of whom have questionable form and injury records.
Similarly, the wing back position requires specialists in those areas, and while the likes of Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young have performed well in pre-season, more recognised wing backs will be needed move forward.
Central midfield is an area that has long been identified as a position that needs strengthening. Herrera goes some way to doing that but United must sign another top class player in that position. Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal continues to be linked and he is the calibre of player that is needed to transform United into title hunters.
Van Gaal needs new tools
Van Gaal is the biggest signing United could have made. His confidence and swagger will be worth 10-15 points on its own but if more signings are not made before the end of the month, he could fall short of his targets this season.
The squad is not fit for purpose and as Van Gaal has said himself, is ‘unbalanced’. Chief Executive Ed Woodward needs to support his manager and make the changes necessary to turn this average squad into a top four side.
If such changes are not made, United will fail – however good a manager Van Gaal is. Even the best need the right players to work with and right now, the World Cup maestro will be let down by the tools at his disposal.
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