Two wins out of two. Six points out of six. Two goals, two clean sheets. Are Manchester United ready to challenge for the Premier League title once again?
There can be no excuses for Louis Van Gaal and his players this season. Since he took charge of United last summer, the Dutchman has spent over £200 million on new players and the suggestion that they are still a ‘work in progress’ is unlikely to wash with the Old Trafford faithful this time around. The return to the Champions League was a must and was the first stepping stone to Van Gaal’s rebuilding process, and on paper United should get through their qualifier with Club Brugge fairly comfortably. If they do, United will be back where they undoubtedly belong. However, how ready are they to compete domestically? Before challenging in Europe can even be considered, dominating domestically has got to top the list of priorities. Van Gaal has spent almost £90 million on new signings for the 2015/16 season, and many expect there to be a couple more before the transfer window shuts on September 1st. So who are they? And what will they bring to United that’s been lacking in recent years?
The arrivals of Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger have reiterated Van Gaal’s desire to bring the Premier League trophy back to Old Trafford. Memphis brings a confidence and arrogance to United which has not been seen since the days of Cristiano Ronaldo. He is strong, quick, powerful and can score from almost anywhere, something he showed time and time again last year at his former club PSV Eindhoven. Reportedly asking to wear the famous number seven jersey after the departure of Angel Di Maria, it is no secret that Memphis has confidence in his own ability. The question now is whether he can fulfil his potential and become one of the Premier League’s most consistent performers. He has all the makings to be a hit with the Old Trafford faithful.
A shrewd yet what appears an excellent addition to the squad is Italy full back Matteo Darmian, signed from Torino for approximately £13 million. He was impressive on his debut against Tottenham and again on Friday night at Villa Park. Comfortable on the ball, tactically sound and willing to attack, the Italian looks the real deal. United have not had a regular right back since Gary Neville retired – Wes Brown and Rafael Da Silva were always there or thereabouts, but in Darmian it looks like they have found a gem, and he looks certain to secure the right back position for the forthcoming campaign.
Then there’s the duo of France international Morgan Schneiderlin and 2014 World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger. These are arguably the two most important signings considering the lack of options United have had in midfield during recent seasons. A position they have failed to strengthen since the departures of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, Schneiderlin is the best tackling midfielder in the Premier League and Schweinsteiger when fit, can pass the ball as well as anyone. For the first time in years, United have plenty of options in the middle of the park.
The one ongoing saga overshadowing United’s transfer business so far this summer is the situation regarding David De Gea. The arrival of Sergio Romero suggests De Gea’s imminent departure to Real Madrid, even though the Old Trafford club have already said he will not be leaving this month. Louis Van Gaal’s decision to play Romero in the opening two league games because the Spanish international was ‘not in the right frame of mind’ strongly suggests he wants out. Either take what you can for him now and give in to the clutches of Madrid, or see a keeper widely regarded as the best in the world leave on a free transfer next summer at the tender age of 25. Whatever he decides, Van Gaal must make a decision quickly before it begins to affect the dressing room.
From the opening two league games, United have failed to make any real impression. They have played fairly poorly, and aren’t creating a great deal of chances in front of goal. However, all that really matters is getting the points, and with two wins out of two, six points out of six and two clean sheets for newcomer Romero, it’s not a bad way to kick off your league campaign. I’d say that not many United fans are complaining at the moment.