This time last season, David Moyes was nearly a week away from the sack after a 2-0 defeat to Everton and the Champions being in 7th place, not even enough to qualify for Europa League football. A lot has changed since then, to the extent that it is now foreseeable that the most decorated team in Premier League history can return to its former dominance.
To start with, Louis Van Gaal is now in the hot-seat, ex-manager of the Netherlands, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax and AZ Alkmaar – winning all the domestic titles in their respective countries, but can he do it in arguably the hardest league in the world?
Recent evidence would suggest that maybe he can – some players who were brought in over the summer – Herrera, Di Maria, Blind and Rojo are starting to click, especially the aforementioned Herrera.
The 4-2 trouncing of local rivals Manchester City has not only demonstrated the shift in dominance over Manchester, but maybe of what is to come from Louis Van Gaal and his men.
Manchester United’s change in fortunes essentially boils down to the fact that LVG has finally found the right formation for his side, and the mercurial rise to prominence from David de Gea – who has gone from Manchester misfit to the goalkeeper of the season in the PFA Team of the Season.
De Gea’s countless number of crucial saves have saved United many a time, they can win when not near their best with him in goal.
A 4-3-3 with Blind and Herrera sitting back and Fellaini in the hole has arguably proved most effective out of the many different formations tried by Van Gaal.
The front trio of Young, Rooney and Mata has also reaped the most rewards in terms of goals, with them having 25 between them.
The omission of Di Maria is surprising, the former Madrista having bagged four goals and 10 assists in 25 appearances this season. However, his absence is justified given his failure to adapt to the physical side of the Premier League, often he gets pushed too easily off the ball, like his fellow countryman Erik Lamela – both need to hit the weights if they really want to prove themselves in the Premier League.
Ashley Young has proved stronger, quicker and more decisive in that role and has earned his place in LVG’s side. Louis Van Gaal has seemingly resurrected the career of Ashley Young, who impressively set up two and got one himself against local rivals City at Old Trafford.
The defence has been better this season for United, it still not a defence which would exactly strike fear into forwards, but with the right acquisitions in the summer (Mats Hummels reportedly being a key target for United in the transfer window) that can change.
Improvements are definitely needed in this United side however, and with Van Persie not getting any younger and Falcao struggling to adapt in Britain, United would need to find a top-class striker to help Rooney up top.
Gundogan is being heavily linked with United and he would suit their midfield perfectly, allowing Blind to drop into his favoured left-back role, where he has played so well for both the Netherlands and Ajax in the past. Blind’s intelligence whilst in possession and tactical discipline have often been compared to Michael Carrick, and he would be the perfect heir to Carrick’s throne – who must have his mind on retiring soon too.
The 3-0 away defeat to Everton does show that there is still plenty to be done, and maybe a sign that teams are starting to figure out a way of playing Van Gaal’s side effectively.
The United boss needs to be tactically flexible otherwise they’ll become too predictable a side, a mistake that former boss Moyes made and one in which ultimately lead to his firing.
However it seems that things are generally looking a lot better for the Red Devils than it did this time last year, and with some good business in the summer, we could well be seeing the league being dominated by Manchester again, only this time it’ll be red.