2015/16 EPL Preview: Manchester United At A Crossroads

Things just didn’t feel right last year as Manchester United were forced to watch the Champions League from their couches, but for the first time in two years, it looks like we’ll see the title challenging United of old. After a up-and-down debut season at the club, Louis Van Gaal seems to have finally found a winning lineup at Old Trafford and his ever-changing tactics could either push the Red Devils to the top or see them sink down into mediocrity. Are United ready to reclaim the winning ways of the Ferguson Era?

In an effort to push the club back into the upper echelon of the league, Louis Van Gaal has made four big impact signings: Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Matteo Darmian. The introduction of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger fill a long standing void the club had in defensive midfield. Last year, the team was heavily reliant on Michael Carrick’s composure at the back and looked lost without him. The two new center midfielders may push Carrick onto the bench, but they represent a major improvement in the heart of the park. The team’s new Italian, Darmian, will push last year’s make shift wing back Antonio Valencia back into his preferred midfield position and give the club a reliable right back on defense and attack. Perhaps the most exciting signing of the summer is the Dutch winger Memphis. The former-PSV man brings a near Ronaldo-esque style back to Old Trafford with his strength, pace and creativity. He has been quick to shoot down the comparisons to the Real Madrid star, and has told fans he wants his play to speak for itself. These new signings have brought a sense of optimism to the fans, but will they meet their high expectations?

The dark cloud hanging over United fans has been the drawn out transfer saga of David De Gea. It could be argued that the young Spanish goalkeeper’s heroics last year are responsible for the team’s Champions League qualification. This amazing season appears to have garnered interest of Real Madrid and the opportunity for De Gea to return home seems almost too good to pass up. Various media outlets believe that the United keeper is nearing the starting spot for the Spanish national team where he would be replacing the same keeper he’d be replacing at Real Madrid, Iker Casillas. If the 24-year-old does move on, the Red Devils will be forced to choose between Argentinian international Sergio Romero, academy product Sam Johnstone, and an out of favor Victor Valdes to play between the pipes. With the end of the transfer window looming, United and Madrid will have to work quickly if they hope to get the transfer sorted in time.

Perhaps the biggest determinant of United’s success this season will be the decisions of Louis Van Gaal at the helm. The Dutchman had a knack for playing players in unorthodox positions last season (e.g. Wayne Rooney in center midfield, and Marouane Fellaini in attack) and sometimes theses decisions paid off and other times they left fans wanting more from the team. Van Gaal has already confirmed to the club’s website that he will be deploying a 4-3-3 formation Saturday against Spurs with Memphis Depay most likely sitting in the number ten role and Juan Mata on the wing. Based on their styles of play, it would seemingly make more sense to have Memphis and Mata switch positions, but Van Gaal has been managing longer than I’ve been alive so I’ll trust his decision. Will the Dutchman’s tinkering push United up to the top, or will it cause confusion and inconsistency on the pitch?

This Saturday has the potential to set the tone for the rest of the season, and Van Gaal’s men will be hoping for a win to avoid last year’s nightmare start against Swansea. If the new signings live up to expectations and Van Gaal finds a winning style of play, United can be very dangerous this year and for the first time in what feels like forever, I have optimism in the season.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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