By Adam Joseph
When Manchester United last won the FA Cup in 2003/04 with a convincing 3-0 beating of Millwall, they stood alone as the most successful club in the tournament’s history with 11 titles. Close to 12 years later they hold that title no longer, Arsenal’s back-to-back wins making them the most successful side in cup history.
Now nine days into the transfer window the Red Devils have stood still on any moves, with not a great deal seeming to be happening at the club. If anything Marouane Fellaini’s departure is more likely than anything else. “Wish lists” that are downright unrealistic are floating about in the English tabloids, and if those moves were going to happen somehow they aren’t going to take place this winter.
So Louis Van Gaal might be left with the tools at his disposal barring one or two arrivals later this January (which the club has briefed prior to the transfer window that they were looking to do) to achieve the targets set for him at the beginning in this campaign.
It’s greatly unknown what will happen in the Europa League, or what the club’s hierarchy expects Van Gaal and his squad to achieve in it. Their Premier League title dream is realistically over (although it isn’t statistically) but a 3rd place finish should be the aim now. But is that really good enough all things considered?
The answer is no. The players within the squad and all the work and money required to assemble them shouldn’t be for nothing. They are not without their weaknesses and balance is a clear and ongoing issue. But the squad is still good it simply has to be.
That being said although it is said every single year since United stopped winning it, perhaps an FA Cup run is due. Red Devils fans might deny it, but a Europa League run wouldn’t go astray either. Manchester United have one of the best squads left in the competition if not the very best, so it’s fair to expect they shall progress quite deep into the tournament if they commit to Thursday nights in Europe.
An FA cup run by comparison is not as difficult. Barring a terrible draw beyond the third round where the Reds face Sheffield United at home, they should be able to progress into the deeper realms of the tournament. They’ve shown they are capable of beating their rivals, with Van Gaal led United squads victorious over every rival except for Chelsea thus far in his reign.
With the club’s current struggles on and off the field, a cup run would be a big lift. The victory over Swansea has clearly lifted spirits, but a lot of work is still to be done to put what was a horrendous December behind them. The second half of that win was promising, but not without it’s issues.
United still cannot seem to attack without presenting issues defensively, and cannot defend well without looking like they cannot score. So it is clear either a strong versatile defender or attacker must arrive this month, if not both. It sounds easy in theory but from experience United know a transfer is rarely simple.
Perhaps though it is time to look at less expensive and not necessarily marquee targets. It’s fun to dream about, but it’s also the target of laughter from other clubs because of the unlikelihood those sorts of players (Neymar, Ronaldo, Bale etc) actually arrive at the Theatre of Dreams. Don’t forget, the likes of Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra arrived in the winter period. Value is out there.
Essentially Manchester United have the rest of January to get their season back on track both on and off the field. It continues tonight against Sheffield United.
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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