Thursday, 28 May 2015
Manchester United Season Review 2014-15
In his first press conference as the new manager of United Louis van Gaal arrived straight from the World Cup and promised that his target was to guide the team into a Champions League qualifying place.
The season was an improvement on the previous one which wasn't exactly difficult, but to be honest it has been a season of ups and downs that left us sweating on that top four finish.
Of course, there were times when the team excelled by beating rivals that had embarrassed us last year. The outstanding results included beating Arsenal away the home victories over Man City and Spurs and the display at Stamford Bridge even though it ended in defeat, but the highlight had to be doing the double over Liverpool.
These positives were tempered by the woeful displays against supposedly weaker teams. Defeat at home to Swansea, West Brom and Southampton add to those the poor away performances at Leicester, Swansea and especially Everton, which had to go down as our worst away match of the season. These games seriously dented our ambitions of ending higher than fourth.
It looked like United would go on a good run in the FA Cup, their only real chance of silverware, but that was halted by old boy Danny Welbeck in the quarter-final at Old Trafford. It pained me to see him score the winner as I wholeheartedly agreed with the manager that he was not good enough for his team and apart from that goal the manager was proved to be correct.
His stand out match among many had to be the victory over Everton at Old Trafford in which not only did he become the first keeper to save a Leighton Baines penalty in the league but his last minute save at full stretch to deny a certain goal was truly world class.
The latter part of the season was marred by the continued speculation that Real Madrid, as they do every season, wanted the Spaniard to return to his hometown to be their number one. United have offered De Gea a substantial pay increase to try and lure him to stay so the ball is firmly in his court. I hope his head is not swayed and with the uncertainty of who will manage the Madrid side he could decide to stay at a club where he is loved by the fans.
The fact that De Gea was chosen as the player of the year for the second season running tells you how terrible our defence was for most of the season. Due to a combination of injuries and poor performances the team never really had a stable look about them.
However, when he was fit he proved exactly what a talent he is with some outstanding link up play with Ashley Young on the left wing.
Through necessity rather than choice, we saw the introductions of a couple of reserve talents in defence Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair. To their credit, they can hold their heads up high within the team but without an experienced player to guide them they seemed to lose a little confidence towards the end of the season.
At the start of the season Louis van Gaal experimented with three centre-backs usually a combination of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones but they were like the teams very own 'Bermuda Triangle' as strange events would take place when they were together.
To be fair to Smalling he pulled his game together and scored some important goals and when he was made captain for the Arsenal match that was a great endorsement from the manager following his contract extension.
In that system, Ashley Young was used as a wing back which totally limited his potential to create any forward momentum that resulted in a lack of assists. The same could be said of Antonio Valencia who filled in at right back all season, not his favoured spot.
The team is crying out for new blood at the back with experienced players to help guide the youngsters and provide that all important defensive partnership that United have been used to in the past. Many have been linked including Alves, Otamendi and Hummels so it will be interesting to see who comes.
Herrera's brace against Aston Villa and Mata's double at Anfield, his second winning him the goal of the season, were the icing on the cake for both of the Spanish amigos.
Michael Carrick started the season late and ended it early due to injuries, but when he did play the team looked more stable. At his age, he will not play a whole season which is all the more reason to buy a midfielder who can help him carry the workload.
He is a good utility player but the energy and work rate he put in over the season began to show in his legs towards the end.
Used for his height he became unmarkable in attack but that wasn't the whole story he actually showed that he can play football and scored some crucial goals. A player who seemed to enjoy his game after the ridicule of last year. I'm turning a blind eye to his GBH attack on Paul McShane and subsequent red card.
Maybe it was all of them but it will be interesting to see how van Gaal manages the situation. I think it was a case of the right player at the wrong time as he was not suited to United's transitional period hopefully he will get a second season to repay the money spent.
Robin van Persie has had a season to forget and found it hard to get into his normally lethal stride not helped with time spent on the sidelines.
Lastly, is the Colombian Radamel Falcao. I for one had high expectations when he came last summer perhaps like everybody too high. He came to United on the back of a lengthy knee injury that in hindsight proved to be his downfall.
Fringe players like Januzaj, Wilson and Pereira still need time to develop at United so maybe going out on loan for a season will give them a confidence boost and important game time. It didn't do any harm to the likes of David Beckham in the past.
Louis van Gaal has built up a rapport and respect from the fans after his no-nonsense press conferences along with the willingness to change his system when there were clear indications it wasn't working.
His end of season speech at the Player of the Season awards also showed his lighter, less stern side.
I feel that with new additions to the team we can compete next season with a squad that has cover in all positions both at home and in Europe. I'm excited about the possibilities after van Gaal's bedding in season has come to an end.
Enjoy the summer break and thanks for reading.