After their disastrous seventh-place finish in last year’s English Premier League season, Manchester United are looking to return to the top under new manager Louis van Gaal.Van Gaal, who has worked magic with the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and his own Netherlands team, becomes the third United manager after the retirement of longtime manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Now the question is, can van Gaal deliver on the expectations?
Despite going undefeated and beating the likes of LA Galaxy, Real Madrid and Liverpool in preseason, United have not been properly tested yet. One thing that is back, however, is the United swagger. Under David Moyes, this mentality all but disappeared. However, van Gaal has gotten the Red Devils to once again believe in themselves, their manager and his tactics.
But tactics only go so far, and perhaps there might need to be some personnel changes. Last year, United stayed still and only made a minor signing. This year, van Gaal has indicated he would like to make some signings, particularly Dutch stars, because they’re cheaper. However, van Gaal does want them to be on a level to play in the Premier League, so don’t expect him to go and sign the first Dutchman he finds only to discover they can’t play in the EPL. He’s also targeted Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria and Juventus star Arturo Vidal.
Already there are some big differences between the aggressive van Gaal and the passive Moyes. Van Gaal has also changed things up in training, focusing on training with the ball and even planting trees at United’s training ground. They might seem like small changes, but even small changes can have big effects. This, and a slew of other changes in the coaching staff, could have an effect on the regular season.
Van Gaal certainly inherited a mess, but given the changes he’s already made, it looks like United can have a chance to be competitive once again. And with the added surprise bonus of the lack of European football, United may have the conditioning they need to to manage the slog through the long season. Whether or not he can bring the title back to Old Trafford is still up in the air, but there is no doubt that van Gaal has changed the culture at United. And yes, he can deliver on the expectations — it just might not be this year.