With the first weekend of Premier League action now behind us there are already a host of huge talking points for pundits and fans alike.
The most discussed of which is surely Louis Van Gaal’s troubled start to life in the Premier League.
So what went wrong for the Dutchman; was it merely an opening day stumble or is it a sign of another season of turmoil for the Manchester United fans?
Yes it is a bit of a lame excuse but Manchester United were missing up to nine first-team players. Whilst not all of them would have made the starting line up surely the likes of Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick would have helped.
What the injuries to these players really highlight is United’s lack of squad depth. In the past when United had players missing they could bring in high quality replacements. That just isn’t the case at the moment.
More worryingly there are key areas where they are lacking world class players to start let alone come in as cover.
3-5-2, 3-4-3, 4-3-3??
Many applauded Van Gaal’s Dutch team for their tactical versatility and in particular their use of the 3-5-2 system during a successful run to the World Cup semi finals.
United also looked to be benefitting from the new formation during pre-season with impressive performances against the likes of Real Madrid leading fans to believe that the formation could be used to good effect in the Premier League.
Swansea took just 45 minutes to blow that theory out of the water! United’s lack of quality in key areas, particularly central defence and in the wing back positions allowed Swansea to take the lead and comfortably keep until United reverted to a 4-4-1-1 formation in the second half.
The player’s didn’t look comfortable and Chris Smalling in particular just isn’t a good enough player to be playing in a formation where he is required to bring the ball out of defence and start attacks. Either the formation must change or the players in it.
Where’s the fear factor?
Old Trafford was a fortress under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson; teams could be beaten before they even stepped on to the pitch such was the intimidation they felt when taking on United in front of their home crowd.
During last season however, the fortress was well and truly dismantled with United suffering seven home league defeats under David Moyes, their most ever in a Premier League campaign.
What is clear is that just because United have a new manager it does not automatically return Old Trafford’s previous fear factor. Other teams know that this United team are there for the taking; the players aren’t as good as they once were, the fans aren’t as confident as before and there is no longer the belief from within Old Trafford that their team can win from any situation, no matter how unlikely.
One thing is for certain, Manchester United will not be given their fear factor back; they will have to earn it with victories over opponents big and small who step into the Theatre of Dreams
The Heart of the team
At the risk of sounding like every football pundit/fan/manager/person who’s watched any of their matches in the last few seasons, this United team is crying out for a world class player in the middle of the park.
Their current crop simply isn’t of the quality required to compete against the very best. In fact their defeat to Swansea proved that they will struggle to compete with a number of teams in that key area throughout the season.
Darren Fletcher, a player who commands huge respect for overcoming his illness, is clearly not at the level he was before his forced sabbatical from the game and arguably never will be.
Michael Carrick - currently injured - has been the pick of United’s midfielders for the past three seasons but even he tends to disappear when faced with stern opposition.
Whilst United yearn for a world class signing like Arturo Vidal or Kevin Strootman to fill the Roy Keane / Paul Scholes void that currently presides there, it just doesn’t look feasible thanks to a certain Mr Woodward.
A Players like Nigel De Jong could prove a useful stop-gap but the fact that United would be purchasing a Manchester City cast off would show just how far they have fallen.
Van Gaal is an excellent coach, Manchester United is a great club with some amazing footballers, but there are too many players not of the calibre expected for them.
Furthermore, the poorly executed manner in which players are being brought into the club means those who are below par will more than likely be given a stay of execution.
Another season of hard toil beckons for the men from Old Trafford unless we see a very busy final two weeks in the transfer market and marked improvement in their next match against Sunderland. Over to you, United.