Manchester United have failed to win any major trophies since legendary coach Sir Alex Ferguson retired from management two seasons ago.
In that time we’ve seen many people associated with the club come and go, from Ferguson's successor David Moyes to club record signing Angel di Maria, but current boss Louis van Gaal looks intent on bringing success back to Old Trafford.
Following a summer of comings and goings, this article assesses five of United’s most important players who undoubtedly have to perform consistently if the Red Devils are going to challenge on both domestic and European fronts.
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Over the past few seasons, Michael Carrick has developed into United’s dependable anchorman in midfield and results show that United do better when he’s in the team and miss him sorely when he is not.
Carrick is one of the most intelligent footballers at the club. He reads the game impeccably well, always knowing what’s around him and he is probably the best passer of the ball in the entire squad.
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The hugely experienced 34-year-old can control and dictate a game on his own, both his vision and passing range are second to none, and he can thread balls through the eye of a needle.
Van Gaal has stated on numerous occasions that he is desperate for Carrick not to get injured this season and, if he gets his wish, United will dominate the majority of their games this season. Carrick’s quality on the ball will create a plethora of goalscoring opportunities for United’s attacking players.
Juan Mata’s talent has never been doubted. The big issue has been where he is deployed by Van Gaal. In my opinion, which is shared by a large proportion of Man United fans, Mata’s best position is behind the striker.
The 27-year-old has adapted admirably to his role on the right-hand side and contributed ten goals in all competitions last season, including a spectacular overhead volley at Anfield.
It goes without saying that Mata looks more comfortable when he’s positioned centrally because it’s from there that he can showcase his vision and breathtaking ability to split defences wide open.
If Van Gaal puts him into the No.10 role this season, it will inevitably bring out the very best in him, and we could see the outstanding qualities that saw him win Chelsea’s Player of the Season award two seasons running.
Manchester United’s skipper is fresh off the back of an international break in which he scored twice and in the process became England’s all-time leading goalscorer at the age of just 29. He is still United’s best player and he has shown on many occasions over the years the true natural talent that he possesses.
Despite receiving some criticism for his poor early season form Rooney responded with a hat-trick against Club Brugge and he’s scored 170 Premier League goals, so it’s safe to say he knows where the back of the net is.
In addition to his potent goalscoring threat, Rooney has an incredible passing range, very good movement and excellent technical abilities. His record over time suggests that once he gets on a goalscoring role, he is almost impossible to stop and if Rooney performs consistently at his best United fans can expect to see him lifting some silverware this season.
No one expected to see Daley Blind lining up at centre-back this season, but that’s where he is, and he’s doing very well so far. Blind’s reading of the game from his new position has been exceptional in the early parts of the season, and both his calmness and assuredness on the pitch has allowed fellow central defender, Chris Smalling, to bully opponents and dominate the physical battles.
The Dutchman is not the strongest or quickest but he anticipates well and the fact that he’s played a lot of football as a holding midfielder means that he is very comfortable on the ball, he can pick out a pass and can play out from the back with ease.
Whatever you think about Blind as a centre-back, no one can deny that centre-back is one of the most important positions in the game. With the likes of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo getting closer to full fitness with every passing day, the pressure is on Blind to continue performing well.
This said, the promising signs from the 25-year-old thus far have led many to think that he could emulate his father and current Netherlands coach Danny Blind by becoming a top-class ball-playing centre-half.
Despite only joining the club this summer, Memphis has already made a big impact and shown his quality on multiple occasions in the famous United No7 jersey, becoming an essential component of Van Gaal’s team.
He is one of the few players at the club who can inject a lot of speed and dynamism into United’s forward line. Memphis can provide width from the left-wing and be an outlet for the team, and he’s powerful, willing to run in behind and a constant part of United’s attacking play in matches. Also, the young Dutch international has excellent delivery from set-pieces, whether it be corners or direct free-kicks, of which he scored seven for PSV last season.
The man has the phrase ‘Dreamchaser’ tattooed across his chest so does not lack confidence, but he has the natural ability to back it up. If he can perform at a high level on a regular basis, don’t be surprised if Memphis turns out to be United’s outstanding player this season.
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