With summer giving way to autumn and winter almost upon us it is the perfect time to analyze Manchester Uniteda s season so far.
Louis Van Gaal must have been given a clear mandate on what are the expectations from him and his side for the year. A top 4 finish would have been the bare minimum expected given the amount of transfer outlay and a more ambitious target would have been to be genuine contenders for the Premier League. As far as the Champions League was concerned the board would have probably understood that United would struggle here given the absence from this competition last year. But with a large amount of commercial deals being structured around Manchester Uniteda s continued involvement in the blue riband European competition, the expectation would be that the Red Devils stay in the reckoning for the knock out spots.
Louis Van Gaal himself would have wanted to win some silverware this season given that United have not won anything since the 2013 Community Shield and the domestic cup competitions offered him that opportunity.
The Dutch tactician would be fairly satisfied with where his side lie in the Premier League table. A return of 20 points from 10 games and only 2 points off the top of the table point to a side heading in the right direction. Given that they have also got rid of many tough fixtures Van Gaal would now like to see his team build up a head of steam going into Christmas & New Year.
But if one scratches a little beneath the surface then it becomes clear that this United side have not looked like genuine title contenders so far. They look slow in midfield with all the passing being horizontal. Ander Herrera who is the one player offering creativity in the middle of the park has not been given a run of games to establish himself.
Michael Carrick, Bastian Schweinsteiger & Morgan Schneiderlin have essentially offered the same output and Van Gaal will have to inject some imagination in the middle of the park if a genuine tilt at the title is to be made.
Upfront it has only been about Wayne Rooney and his lack of goals. The England captain looks to be trying to hard to score and in the process has lost that little bit of spark which makes him so dangerous. Not only is he not scoring but his reputation ensures that Anthony Martial is edged out to the wings where he becomes considerably less effective.
Manchester United made the worst possible start to their Champions League campaign with a defeat away to PSV Eindhoven. They were also a goal down at home against VfL Wolfsburg but Juan Mata dragged them out of the hole with a virtuoso performance.
In the third match against CSKA Moscow the Red Devils again fell behind and were looking at a second defeat in the competition as they failed to get going in sub zero temperatures before a fine diving header by Martial helped rescue a point. The first three matches suggest that United would do well to get of this group but even if they do it is difficult to see how they will be able to challenge the European heavyweights.
The defence has been OK so far with a vastly improved Chris Smalling complementing the more cultured Daley Blind at the back. David De Gea has also been excellent so far but Van Gaal will be worried at how often the Spanish stopper has been called into action. United have also lacked intensity in their European matches something which was their hallmark during the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Capital One Cup
This is one competition in which Manchester United had a good shot at winning especially considering that Arsenal & Chelsea had been knocked out. But United made a mess of their last 16 tie against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford. They were poor in the first 90 minutes with both Blind & Sergio Romero making a comedy of errors only to be saved by luck and the linesmana s flag.
In extra time though United created a spate of chances only for Marouane Fellaini & Anthony Martial to miss close range headers. With the kind of game that the Red Devils were having coupled with the boisterous 10000+ away fans backing Middlesbrough it was inevitable that the Teesiders would prevail in the penalty shoot out.