With a gruelling opening test against Tottenham Hotspur, Louis van Gaal will be more than buoyed with his squads fitness ahead of the tie. While Schweinsteiger, Rojo and De Gea will all be unavailable for selection, van Gaal has far more options heading into the new season.
“We have no injuries! It’s unbelievable” exclaimed van Gaal at the Press conference ahead of the Tottenham clash.
Louis van Gaal is back, and he’s dropping the proverbial hammer yet again. David De Gea’s frayed mental state has prevented him from being selected, while Rojo and Schweinsteiger’s match fitness is in doubt.
Last season, van Gaal started the Premier League with Evans, De Gea, Blackett, Lingard, Fletcher, Young and Van Persie. Against Spurs, all but one of those players can start. It shows how far Manchester Untied have come, and in a sense how Louis van Gaal his stamped his authority on a team that has changed exponentially since Sir Alex’ departure two summers ago.
In goal, van Gaal faces a bit of a selection dilemma. With veteran keeper Valdes, seemingly out of contention, and Anders Lindegaard not being favoured by van Gaal, United’s likely two options are academy product Sam Johnstone and Sergio Romero. Debuting a keeper in the opening Premier League game is a very big risk, but van Gaal, as he has done throughout his United career thus far, has stuck to his guns and defended his decisions.
Sam Johnstone impressed throughout the pre season, having two successful run outs defending United’s goal for a half each in United’s opening three pre-season fixtures. The signing of Sergio Romero, a keeper who understands van Gaal’s philosophy however might put him ahead in the pecking order, despite match rhythm.
In defence, United’s full back Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw look set to start. Both fullbacks were among United’s most impressive performers throughout the pre-season. With both choosing their favoured jersey numbers, 36 and 23 respectively, the conditions are ripe for both to start against Tottenham. In the centre of defence, van Gaal is likely to pair Daley Blind with Chris Smalling. Picking Blind over Jones might seem odd to many, but the former has looked composed in his run at centre-back, positioning himself well and making hard tackles when necessary. Jones endured a night to forget against Paris Saint Germain, putting his starting credentials in doubt. With Marcos Rojo lacking match fitness, United’s defence will be put through a stern test by Kane and Co.
United’s midfield has been greatly altered through the summer, giving van Gaal a lot of options to chose from. Plying a loose double pivot 4-2-3-1, which translated into a 4-1-4-1 in attack, United are seemingly looking to better defensively. Michael Carrick is likely to partner Morgan Schneiderlin at the base of midfield, with either new number 7, Memphis Depay, or Ander Hererra occupying the most advanced midfield spot.
In the attack, Van Gaal is likely to ply the same front three that were involved in United’s 3-0 victory over Tottenham this February. Juan Mata in likely to continue as an inverted Right winger, with Young marshalling the left flank, headed by Wayne Rooney up front. Young and Mata’s performances throughout the pre-season were a mixed bag of brilliant flashes coupled with spells of mediocrity. Young however was rewarded for his game saving exploits last season, with a new contract, keeping him at Old Trafford till 2018. What might make him feel safe about the future may yet be the push he’ll need in the present to hit the ground running this season.
Ander Hererra in midfield, could greatly aid Juan Mata, as their near telepathic connection connects midfield to attack at rapid pace. However, van Gaal’s positioning of Depay in the centre, might raise doubts as to wether Hererra and Mata will play together in the near future.
Wayne Rooney is poised to go on a goalscoring run, as he’s seen as United clear-cut first choice forward. If he is to ply in the number 9 position throughout the season, he’s more likely to move even closer to Bobby Charlton’s all time United goalscoring record, as well as making up ground on Alan Shearer’s mammoth Premier League haul of 260 goals.
United’s centre backs will be vulnerable given the lack of playing time between Smalling and Blind, coupled with the uncertainty of a new keeper between the sticks. United do however have more quality in midfield, and strength and speed in attack.