We are less than a week away from the start of a new season – Finally!
Rumours will continue to blossom in newspapers and will not fade away. United have seen the old guard move out, two exciting players joining the ranks and a World Class Manager taking control.
United’s squad are known for their ‘never say die’ attitude, however, during last season, when conceding the first goal of the match, the body language of the players did not show that they have what it takes to turn the result around, in fact, they very rarely did resulting in a number of records broken after numerous years, bad results, trophy-less season, lack of European football the following season and the sacking of ‘The Chosen One’ – David Moyes.
The CV of the person who replaced him is extremely different. Louis van Gaal comes with a proven philosophy which lead him to win championships in his homeland with Ajax and AZ Alkmaar, in Spain with Barcelona and in Germany with Bayern Munich. He also finished third in the 2014 World Cup where he lead Holland to an impressive run, stopped only on penalties by losing-finalists Argentina.
Following his World Cup adventure, Van Gaal joined his new team in Manchester and within a few days he was on another transatlantic flight to the USA to play against LA Galaxy, AS Roma, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Considering everything, expectations were low and no great results were expected until everyone beds in to the new systems and coaching staff. United hit the ground running winning 7-0 against LA Galaxy. The biggest surprise was Van Gaal choosing to play with a 3-5-2 formation. Later he explained that this will be his default system this season since it allowed him to play a #10 and two strikers as considering the worth of talent in those positions it does not make sense to leave them on the bench. This result was followed by three more wins; 3-2 vs Roma, penalty shoot out win vs Inter (following 0-0 draw) and more impressively a 3-1 win vs Real Madrid. This lead to final showdown against Liverpool. Despite being behind at halftime, United won the game 3-1.
At the end of last season, supporters were able to make a list of players who should be shipped out because of their awful displays. At the top of the list for most would have been Ashley Young. However, this must has changed after the American Preseason Tour. Young was one of the most consistent players, playing in different roles scoring a total of four goals (two against LA Galaxy and two against Real Madrid). It’s not just his goals that made him shine but his overall contribution to the matches he played in.
It was clear that the player’s improved performance was down to increased motivation and an injection of confidence. These two factors (motivation and confidence) reverberated throughout the squad with all players performing much better than last season, showing a willingness to work hard and bring back Man Utd to their expected heights. Furthermore, the players seem to be enjoying the new regime which is also positive.
Should United be able to maintain their winning streak in the first few Premier League games, it will continue to enhance the confidence and motivation and this will potentially translate in wins. A good early run in the league may place United in a good position to be in the top four and potentially challenge for the league.
Van Gaal should already be given credit for this achievement. Whilst he will continue developing his squad and instilling his philosophy, the Dutchman must ensure to guard against complacency.
With the confidence factor back, the only way is up for Manchester United.