Having secured the signings of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin, Manchester United and Louis van Gaal can have little excuse if a credible tilt at the Premier League title does not materialise next season.
United showed glimpses of regaining the winning mentality instilled in them by Alex Ferguson during Van Gaal’s debut campaign at Old Trafford but looked short of the necessary quality in certain areas while also lacking balance.
The Dutchman laid the formations for the 3-5-2 formation he had utilised as Netherlands coach last term as United finished third but switched to a 4-1-4-1 later in the campaign.
However, in the signings of Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin Van Gaal looks set to field a much stronger midfield, with Matteo Darmian and Memphis Depay able to add quality and versatility.
The 20-time Premier League champions have areas that still need attention – at the back and up front – but already look a much-improved prospect.
Plugging the midfield gap
A lack of midfield quality has been an accusation levelled at United since Paul Scholes’ first retirement. It is not one that can be used anymore.
In Schweinsteiger, they boast a hugely experienced leader on the field who has won all there is to win for club and country as well as a man versed in the benefits of working with Van Gaal.
The former winger was converted to a central midfielder by the Dutchman at Bayern and alongside the 30-year-old is the more mobile and energetic Schneiderlin.
Throw Michael Carrick into the mix and you have a midfield trio to rival most others, although Schweinsteiger’s recent injury troubles will remain a worry for United fans.
A case for the defence
While United conceded less than a goal a game in the Premier League last term, Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 continued to present problems for some in his back line.
Darmian is able to play on either side of the defence and will offer a strong option at full-back but links with Sergio Ramos and Nicolas Otamendi continue to suggest Van Gaal is not fully content with his defence.
Van Gaal’s new midfield reinforcements will offer increased protection but further defensive signings would certainly add to the feel-good factor at Old Trafford.
With Robin van Persie en route to Fenerbahce, Radamel Falcao’s difficult spell at United over and Javier Hernandez seemingly not in Van Gaal’s plans – a striker will remain on United’s shopping list.
Wayne Rooney and James Wilson are Van Gaal’s only out-and-out strikers as it stands, with Depay likely to be asked to play up top as well.
Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani has been mooted as a potential target and would certainly add the star quality required for United to achieve their grand ambitions.
Their signings so far clearly represent a step forward in Van Gaal’s rebuilding plan for United but with quality comes expectation, and the former Barca boss will know he has no excuse if he fails to win the club’s first major trophy post-Ferguson.