Connect in the back of the net

Introduction  

Manchester United have had an eventful transfer window that shows no sign of abating. So far the club have signed a right-back, two midfielders, and a winger.

In contrast to previous windows, purchases have been made with needs in mind rather than buying whoever was available.

Star power has also come to Old Trafford in the shape of Bastian Schweinsteiger (most United fans still cant believe it), and Memphis Depay (one of the most exciting talents in European football).

If rumours are still to be believed, there will still be some more activity at Manchester United, most notably in the defensive and attacking positions.

Ahead of a pivotal season, here is a squad overview.

 

Goalkeepers 

David De Gea

Comfortably first choice keeper. Looks as if United are not going to be held to ransom by Real Madrid over his (eventual) transfer, and all signs point to De Gea staying at United for another year and then moving on a free next summer.

Good news for United as they have another season of a world-class keeper.

De Gea…. world class and must stay at Old Trafford

Victor Valdes

After the latest Van Gaal comments, his future seems to be away from from Old Trafford. Never really seemed to be a number two keeper, but will definitely be a number one at whichever club he goes to.

 

Anders Lindegaard

Pre-season will determine what kind of role he has to play this season. Shoot-out between Sam Johnstone and him for the number two role.

Will clearly not be number one, but is he willing to sacrifice another year without playing much?

 

Sam Johnstone

Important pre-season. Had a strong game vs Club America with some commanding saves and impressive presence. If he impresses Van Gaal will start the season as De Gea’s backup, but failing that it looks there will be another loan out for him to gain experience.

 

Defenders (Right Back) 

Matteo Darmian

Signed to slot straight into the first team. A highly-rated Italian international, Darmian is an instant improvement to what was a problem spot for United all of last season. While his primary concern is at the back, Van Gaal will be expecting him to provide overlapping runs down the flank.

With Sterling, Hazard and Sanchez all playing down the left of midfield, Darmian will have his hands full this year and will need to settle down quickly.

Darmian… an instant improvement

 

Antonio Valencia

While he is the second choice right back, he will definitely get his fair share of games. Van Gaal likes the way Valencia offers some stability at the back, and his pace definitely is an asset.

Might even get a chance back at RM if United are struggling to break down teams.

 

Rafael

A fan favourite, Rafael’s future looks to be away from Old Trafford after Van Gaal mentioned that the Brazilian did not have the defensive nous he was looking for.

His combative, tenacious style of play will endear him well to fans of whichever club he moves to.

 

Defenders (Left Back) 

Luke Shaw

When Shaw was fit and playing last year he looked straight at home filling in Patrice Evra’s footsteps. However he had too many injuries, and it was no secret that Van Gaal was not happy with his fitness levels.

During the summer of 2015 Shaw seems to have hit the gym, and will definitely be first choice this season if he can stay injury free.

 

Daley Blind

Although Blind can play both at LB and CM, the recent acquisitions in midfield mean that he will probably serve as a backup player in both positions. During United’s best games last season, Blind was at LB and had a brilliant understanding with Young down the left wing.

With the number of games that United could potentially play this year, Blind will certainly get his fair share of games due to rotation.

Blind… impressed, despite an injury-hampered campaign

 

Tyler Blackett

Tyler Blackett has all the attributes to be a superb defender for United. Strong and quick with a thunderous left foot, he has been quiet when given his chance. It might seem as if he is lacking the self-belief and confidence in himself, but he certainly can do it.

A loan to a side where he plays week in week out is required for him to gain experience and confidence.

 

Defenders (Centre Back) 

Chris Smalling

Had a really impressive second half of the season last year and has firmly established himself as the best of the existing centre-backs at the club. Comfortable on the ball and has really grown into a leadership role at the back.

Will probably remain first choice even after United sign another CB as expected. Reminiscent of Rio Ferdinand when on form.

 

Phil Jones

Jones has not progressed as expected in the past couple of seasons, but will still have a role to play. Puts himself about with authority, and definitely the strongest CB.

Will not be first choice, but given United’s history of injuries and physical opposition in the league, will get his run of games. Needs to make it count and avoid unnecessary injuries.

 

Marcos Rojo

Rojo had a solid but unspectacular season at United- good performances but had injuries (the story of United’s defenders last season). While he plays LB for Argentina, his club future will be at CB.

Will get his share of games, and expect him to score a few goals with his left foot as well.

 

Paddy McNair

A really impressive season last year from the Northern Irishman. Looked at home straight away, but obviously had a few games where his youth showed.

Will be first choice in the cup competitions this season.

McNair... fine season

McNair… fine season

Jonny Evans

At one stage in 2011, Evans was the natural replacement to Ferdinand and Vidic. However in the years after, he has regressed. His 6 match ban for spitting was probably the final straw, and rumours are that he will be sold to Everton for 8 million.

Sad to see Evans leave as he has been at United since he was a youngster, but a move away will be the right thing for club and player.

 

Midfielders (Centre)

Michael Carrick

It was a testament to the Geordie’s quality that United averaged 1.3 points a game when he was unavailable. Controls the tempo of the game and pops up with vital goals as well. United did not have a replacement last year for Carrick, but the signing of Schneiderlin has seen to that.

Will still be one of Van Gaal’s most important players this season.

 

Morgan Schneiderlin

The Frenchman has one of the best players in the Premier League over the past two years, and deserved to be playing at the highest level. He can play as a deep lying playmaker or a box to box midfielder.

Schneiderlin is the heir to Carrick in the United engine room, and will be in the first choice lineup.

 

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Most United fans still have to pinch themselves when they see Schweinsteiger lining up in the midfield. The Germany captain still has something to offer, and will be looking to test himself in the Premier League.

Few expect him to fail, and has been signed for his off the field presence as much as his midfield play.

Will come straight into the United first choice XI.

Schweinsteiger.... star signing

Schweinsteiger…. star signing

 

Ander Herrera

Herrera enjoyed a resurgence last year playing as a box to box midfielder. He developed a near telepathic understanding with Mata on the right hand side, and chipped in with 6 goals from 7 shots.

It is expected that Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, and Herrera will comprise the first choice midfield.

 

Marouane Fellaini

The much maligned Belgian was one of the most important players last season. The only one who offered some sort of height and was a different option.

While he will not be in the first choice XI, he will be required to play his part at different points this season- especially against some of the more physical teams.

 

Andreas Pereira

The Brazlian-Belgian youngster is one of the most promising players at United. His primary position is CAM, but is learning his trade as a box to box midfielder.

The experience of Carrick and Schweinsteiger will do him no harm, and Pereira is expected to play regularly in the cups.

 

Wingers

Angel Di Maria

The British record signing started his season like a train with an assist or a goal in nearly every game. A hamstring injury towards the end of October halted his momentum, and a burglary into his house affected his confidence.

Looked a shadow of the player he was when he first moved, but he still ended the season with the most number of assists.

Still the best player at the club, but rumours continue to link him to PSG. After he returns to pre-season in a week we will know more. Should he decide to stay, will be the first choice winger on either side.

 

Memphis Depay

Memphis is one of the most exciting players in world football today. Pacy, direct, and with an end product, the easy comparison is to Ronaldo.

Memphis has always wanted to be the best player in world football, and he has found no better place to realise this dream than Old Trafford.

Will frustrate at times, but United fans should be very excited he has chosen Manchester.

Depay…. one to watch

 

Adnan Januzaj

Januzaj didn’t progress as much under Van Gaal, but the manager still admires him. Was unlucky in that Mata/Young were two of the best players and became undroppable.

The lack of cup competitions didn’t help either, but this season has a big role to play as a backup. Another exciting talent.

 

Ashley Young

Young was one of the best players last season, whether it was at LB, RB, or LW. Endeared himself to the fans with his work rate, and when on form his whipped crosses caused problems.

With Depay and Di Maria coming back into the equation, will not play every game, but a more than useful squad player.

 

Juan Mata

Probably the player the fans adore the most at the club. Always looks like a player who realises how lucky he is to be a professional footballer, and is capable of the sublime. His best position is CAM, but became a false RW last year as United found success.

Will probably start off first choice based on last season’s heroics. Expect him to play as a CAM in certain games as well

 

Jesse Lingard

Impressed Van Gaal in preseason last year to start against Swansea in the first match of the season. However, he suffered a bad injury that kept him out a while.

Lingard is getting a chance again this pre-season, but a move away looks likely with the competition for wing places.

 

Strikers 

Wayne Rooney

Into his 11th year at Old Trafford, Rooney has established himself as the number 1 striker and captain. This will be the first season since 2011/12 where he will be the main man up front.

Van Gaal will be looking to his talisman to lead United to glory this year. The signings mean that his ill-fated midfield stints are hopefully a thing of the past.

 

Javier Hernandez

Sent out on loan to Real Madrid last year, but it looks like Hernandez will be given a chance this year. Hernandez will be essential this year as United will struggle to break down teams that sit back and concede possession.

He can only really play in a 4-4-2 so will not be first choice. If he is willing to stay at United as a squad player, he will get opportunities, and will score goals.

Hernandez.... given a second chance by van Gaal

Hernandez…. given a second chance by van Gaal

 

James Wilson

The youngster got plenty of chances last year, none more so than a start against Liverpool at Old Trafford. Didn’t score as many goals as he would have liked last year, but the departures of Van Persie and Falcao will give him opportunities.

Van Gaal rates him, and he will be first choice in cup competitions.

 

Signings 

Centre Back

It is no secret that United need a dominant CB who can take the game by the scruff of the neck. Otamendi and Ramos are heavily linked, but the latter is unlikely.

 

Striker

The ideal striker that United are looking for is young, willing to be second choice, and fits equally well into a 4-3-3 and 4-4-2. The combination of the three means that there are very few strikers that fit the bill.

Harry Kane remains linked, but the club are waiting to see whether he is more than a one-season wonder.

The ‘marquee’ signing remains to be linked, but it is not sure how that striker would fit with Rooney as the main striker.

 

Goalkeeper

Dependent on De Gea. Probably will not be moving to Madrid this year, so United can afford to take their time in identifying a replacement.

 

Conclusion

It is clear that United now have a squad that should be able to compete on all four fronts. If the club manages to get through the Champions League qualifier in August, then the games will come thick and fast, and this is why Louis Van Gaal has wished for two players per position. Each member of the squad will get some game time with the rotation required.

With a CB and a striker/wide forward still rumoured to come, fans are quite rightly getting excited. A title challenge, qualification to the knockout rounds of the Champions League, and a domestic cup should be the bare minimum this year at Old Trafford with this squad.

 

First Choice XI

 

Written by Vishakh Chandrasekhar

Follow Vishakh on Twitter @VishC24

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