We at 32 Flags are previewing every team in the English Premier League, two teams a day until the beginning of the season. Get ready as we preview your favorite team or maybe we can help you pick a team to root for if you are undecided so far. Today, we’re covering Manchester United.
Manchester United F.C.
Founded – 1878
Last Year Position – 7th place
Transfers In (As of 8/7) – Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw
Transfers Out (As of 8/7) – Jack Barmby, Bebe, Alexander Buttner, Charni Ekangamene, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Michael Kean (Loan), Jesse Lingard (Loan), Federico Macheda, Davide Petrucci (Loan), Tom Thorpe (Loan), Nemanja Vidic
Projected Finish (Voted among 32 Flags staff) – 5th place
Rivalries – North-West Derby with Liverpool F.C. (Dec 13 and Mar 21), Manchester Derby with Manchester City (Sept 27 and Feb 7), with Arsenal (Nov 22 and May 16), and Leeds United
Famous Supporters – Usain Bolt, Harry Styles, Rory McIlroy, Megan Fox, among many others
Anybody who thinks that Manchester United are suddenly going to win the league title now that van Gaal is in charge needs to take a step back and look at the squad. The problem last season was just that Moyes did an underwhelming job as manager of one of the most storied clubs in world soccer. No, there was a rot that had set into the club near the end of the Ferguson era that was kept largely under control because of the talent of the man at the helm. With him gone, the bandaid was ripped off and the team under performed, as many predicted. Louis van Gaal, while a fine manager, has a lot of work to do this season. It will take a few seasons to get them back to where they were and there are many pitfalls that they must avoid.
The biggest problem that could arise this season is the fact that most fans understand that van Gaal is a short term manager, brought in to steady the ship and do the necessary repairs before bringing in the long-term successor to Ferguson. Many people expect this to be Ryan Giggs, the current assistant manager and last season’s interim manager. This doesn’t strike me as van Gaal’s decision, to put his expected immediate successor directly under him. This strikes me more as a board decision, to put Giggs in a role where he is expected to learn from one of the veteran managers in the game. The issue with this, however, is that both managers have a way of running things and both, van Gaal especially, have egos. You have to if you want to be a good manager. If things start turning badly, like they did for Moyes, it isn’t out of the question that fractures could appear in the dressing room, the pro-van Gaal players and the pro-Giggs/Ferguson players (Ferguson’s shadow will loom largely over that team as long as the man lives).
Tactically, the other problem is that United are lacking a true world class central defender. This is a major issue for the formation that van Gaal plays, with three across the back. The 3-4-1-2 can be an incredibly dominating and versatile formation with the right players. While formation gets the best out of United’s attacking players, but doesn’t quite fit with United’s lack of top quality defenders. The £30m signing of Luke Shaw surprised everyone, but I’m failing to see exactly where he will fit. He isn’t a central defender so that means he will be expected to push up as the left most player in the midfield 4. This can help bring some defensive stability but loses some of the attacking impetus and doesn’t totally fix the problem with the defense. United haven’t signed a replacement for Vidic, which is a serious issue, and the other defenders aren’t quite up to snuff. Jones suffers from his own versatility, not quite a defender but not quite anything else, Smalling is solid but uncomfortable under pressure, and Jonny Evans is past his best. These players were largely exposed during the ICC final. While this was only a friendly, the game was played at a Premier League speed so you can see how a team that presses can really cause discomfort for the United back three. What United are lacking is a truly commanding centerback. Hummels would be perfect for them but he has just been made captain of Dortmund and will be priced out of a move. This is on top of United still needing a midfield general, something they have been lacking since Ferguson’s tenure. These massive holes in the United team cause myself, and the rest of the staff at 32 Flags, feel that Manchester United will place 5th this season.