So barring a goal swing of 14 goals in the favour of Liverpool over the last two premier league games of this season, Louis Van Gaal should have guided his Manchester United team back into the Champions League. If he does, how will you rate Van Gaal`s first season in charge at Old Trafford?
At the start of the season, most reds would have taken fourth spot and a cup run after the damage caused by David Moyes short lived era. Personally, I rate Van Gaal and do think he is the right man at the helm. He has impressed me with his big personality, his press conferences have been more like Sir Alex Ferguson in being bold and confident rather than almost apologetic Moyes`s speeches.
I could imagine Van Gaal being outspoken and possibly abrasive with his squad as he is not afraid to make decisions, like making Wayne Rooney his captain and substituting or dropping big names if they are not playing well but it is worth noting that the newspapers have not heard any whispers coming out from the club of discontent among the squad. Some performances like at West Ham, Newcastle and Crystal Palace it is clear the players are playing for their manager which reassures me in the future.
Van Gaal has given youth a chance in his first season with the likes of Januzaj, Wilson, McNair and Blackett all given game time and bloodied in big games. Old Trafford is becoming a fortress again after a shocking home form under Moyes when everyone came and conquered.
Whilst some people may say that Van Gaal has spent £150m this season, you have to remember that some of those signings have done nothing this season like Di Maria, Falcao and Shaw. Had those played to their full potential then United may have been looking at challenging Chelsea for the title. Van Gaal has had to deal with an horrendous injury list which at some points in the earlier parts of the season was almost comical as if you did not laugh you would have cried it was that ridiculous.
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Let’s not forget all the dead wood that needed clearing out which takes time finding clubs and deals for these players. The first cull has seen the likes of Nani, Cleverly, Hernandez, Welbeck and Fletcher all move on, but let’s not forget next season Evans, Rafael and a few could be gone and the likes of Januzaj and Wilson could go out on loan to get valuable first team experience. To make and mould your own squad takes time, something thankfully the board are prepared to give the manager.
With the Dutchman having such a successful world cup in Brazil with Holland, Van Gaal arrived late at Old Trafford which set back his plans for the pre-season and the transfer window.
That was far from ideal but something that everyone had to deal with. Yes Van Gaal has struggled to get his defenders to adjust to playing three at the back, a formation that was finally ditched in favour of a back four, but at least he is prepared to evaluate things and not be pig headed, listening to feedback from his staff and players.
There have been times when some players like Rooney have been played out of position, although Rooney had to drop back due to most of the midfielders being on the treatment table, but I do recall Ferguson trying to turn Phil Neville into a midfielder or put Rooney and Welbeck deeper or on the wings, so all managers like to tinker.
Van Gaal has certainly rejuvenated Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini, players whose confidence was on the floor and has the pulling power to convince players like Blind and Depay to come and join him. My hope is that United get their transfer targets in early, like Chelsea did last season and have an injury free pre-season therefore ready to hit the ground running come August. If so, I am sure the target will be to challenge for the title as well as targeting Europe too which is what the fans want to hear.
So this year it has been a steady 7 out of 10 for the manager, here is to a strong challenge for honours next season, the future is bright, the future is orange.