By Adam Joseph
We are now well and truly into the new era of Manchester United. David Moyes succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson but that was his only “success” as such, as he singlehandedly did his best to tear down 27 seasons of his predecessors work inside a calendar year.
As we are all well aware, the Scot was sacked at the earliest opportunity after a plethora of horrendous results. At this time or another, fans began realising the true tests that lay ahead. Many knew how difficult it would be post-Ferguson, but perhaps not to that extent.
Champions of 2013 were put in their place in 2014, finishing 7th. After a stunning World Cup with a 3rd place finish with a Dutch squad who now can’t quality for the European Championships, Louis Van Gaal arrived at the club to much excitement and fanfare.
United fans watched breathlessly as the Dutch dismantled then-World Champions Spain 5-1 with clinically brilliant football, wondering what could be when he took full control at Old Trafford the next season.
A promising preseason only enhanced expectations, but ever since there has been a struggle for consistency, away form and “that moment” where it all clicks and the team becomes what Van Gaal and we envision.
Criticisms of the football are fair, as it has been devastatingly boring at times. When it comes together the passing and movement has been sublime, but at the moment that is all too frequent.
In big games the club has a good record however, last season only suffering defeat at the Etihad and Stamford Bridge. These games the club could have won on another day, but that’s football.
However United were completely ripped apart at the Emirates by Arsenal in their most recent match. This has made for a long and impatient International break. Hope can be that the defeat was treated as a blip on the radar, and not a marker for the season ahead.
This becomes particularly important now, with United’s toughest stretch of the season to come over the next month. If you haven’t been keeping an eye on the schedule ahead until the next break, it looks like this: Everton (A), CSKA (A), Man City (H), Middlesbrough (H), Crystal Palace (A), CSKA (H) and West Brom (H).
The club is sitting 3rd but only 4 points separate United and the 10th placed Liverpool, this stretch looms as pivotal. Goodison Park has not been kind to the Red Devils in recent times, and they were humbled 3-0 last season by Roberto Martinez’s men. Everton are somewhat of a bogey team to United, this is a good opportunity to end that trend.
Trips to Russia are never easy and the flight is draining on the players, whilst the visit of Manchester City will be incredibly difficult regardless of whether David Silva or Sergio Aguero are fit to play. United can’t afford an upset against Championship side Middlesbrough, and a trip to high flying Crystal Palace will be a stern test of Louis Van Gaal’s away tactics.
With all of the criticism coming to Van Gaal and the players after the embarrassment of the Arsenal game they cannot afford to stumble through this run of fixtures. Wayne Rooney and Memphis Depay will seek to find form, after fierce ridicule of both over the International break.
This will also be a true test of whether the club has made real progress under Van Gaal. This means not only overall, but also the club’s away form will be evaluated heavily through this spell. Poor away from Old Trafford last season, fans and pundits alike expect improvement this campaign. So far they have not seen it outside of Manchester.
At this moment now, patience must still be pleaded. Van Gaal has commenced a huge assignment at United. Years of underinvestment were undertaken prior to his arrival and for years Sir Alex drained every last bit of talent from his squads to get the most out of them in a way only he could.
Moyes took control of an ageing squad and tore it to shreds behind the scenes. He didn’t respect the players properly and they in turn did not respect him. Van Gaal jumped on a sinking ship and has tried to steady it.
He has spent incredible sums of money, but what is lost in those figures is the necessity of the spending. Club legends had retired or moved on without being adequately replaced. Deadwood was sold and these players must be replaced. Quantity will simply not do under the modern transfer policy of the club, and only quality will suffice from here on out.
It’s now practically a whole new squad, and these players (particlarly those from foreign leagues) take time to gel in the squad and adapt to their new league, country and teammates. It’s a progressive rebuild on the fly, but a rebuild nevertheless.
Now however fans are getting restless. They are expecting progress and more exciting football to come. The next 3 weeks will go a long way to determining whether any has been made, or if more questions need to be asked.
Adam Joseph is a freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia. Manchester United fan from back when they were the only team on Australian TV and it was love at first sight. Manchester United, Oklahoma City Thunder, New England Patriots and Carlton Blues fanatic. If it’s sport related, I’ll talk about it.
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