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What do rival supporters think of Manchester United’s 2014-15 season?

While looking ahead to the new season, often expectations and predictions are marred with a clear bias. Every supporter thinks that either it’s their year or at the very least that they will fare better than one or more of their rivals. So rather than publishing Manchester United supporters’ views on their club, supporters of their rivals have shared their opinion on what they think of the Red Devils ahead of the new season.

We have writers from our other Team Blogs giving their opinion on Louis Van Gaal’s side. Sami Faizullah from Shankly’s Men (Liverpool), Zac MacPhee from the Invisible Men (Man City), Vishal Patel from Under the Bridge (Chelsea) and Calvin Gomez from Dial Square.

What are Manchester United’s objectives this season?

Sami (Shankly’s Men): It’s pretty obvious that for the first time in a long time Manchester United won’t be going into a season looking for the Premier League title. Their focus is on the Champions League which is both their aim and bare minimum. Anything lesser would be a complete failure that will be felt for season’s to come. Their poor finish has already burdened them in a time where keeping up is key, and even one bad season can have short-term effects. Securing the long-term is crucial.

Zac (The Invisible Men): To finish in the Top Four and win a Cup. Without Europe to distract them (seriously, how strange is that?), Louis van Gaal’s side will play significantly less matches than their top four rivals and that gives them a good chance of returning to the Top Four.

Vishal (Under the Bridge): This is very tricky. It should be a year of transition, but it might be wise for them to see how it goes in the beginning, and then set goals. Champions League qualification will not be a bad start at all.

Calvin (Dial Square): A disheartening and shattering season was unexpected given the consistency with which United finished off their 2012-2013 title winning campaign. Qualifying for the Champions League is a must if they are to attract the best players and build their team. Van Gaal certainly isn’t expecting any less.

How do you think Manchester United will do this season?

Sami (Shankly’s Men): The appointment of Van Gaal is one that can be termed a game-changer. He has the ability to bring the best out of individuals, even those who seem a lost cause. But compared to their rivals at the time of writing, the teams looks weak. They’ll compete for a Champions League spot but hard to say if they’ll succeed. I’ll stick my neck out and say they’ll squeeze through.

Zac (The Invisible Men): If the pre-season’s anything to go by (I know, it’s usually not), United will be good. Van Gaal looks every bit the tactician and character they desperately needed last season, and their squad might be perfectly suited to the 3-4-1-2 they’ve been playing.

Vishal (Under the Bridge): This is a tough one to call. A few pre-season results don’t win you titles, but they’ve looked a better team since van Gaal has taken over. The squad still lacks a lot though, so Champions League qualification.

Calvin (Dial Square): Based on their current signings, I don’t believe United have adequately strengthened their squad in order to play at the top most level successfully. Van Gaal is a tactically astute manager but there’s only so much one can do with an under par squad. I’m expecting United to come in 5th place. I’m also expecting them to be successful in one of the domestic cups. Van Gaal has a penchant for knockout tournaments.

Who do you think will be Manchester United’s key player?

Sami (Shankly’s Men): If Van Gaal does go for a 3-4-1-2, then that ‘hole’ behind the striker is set for Juan Mata to flourish in. We know he has the ability, but that formation sets the stage up perfectly for the Spaniard. If Mata can’t succeed in a #10 role, in that formation, under a coach like Van Gaal, he won’t do so anywhere else. I’ll go another level and say Juan Mata will be one of the best players in the Premier League in the 2014/15 season.

Zac (The Invisible Men): Rooney? Mata? Van Persie? It might be one of them, but I’ll go with Ander Herrera. United were overrun in midfield in every big match they played last year and if they’re to return to their best, Herrera will need to correct that. 

Vishal (Under the Bridge): Van Persie enjoys working with van Gaal, and it’s now in place for the Dutchman to fire. His goals won United the title in 2013, and a repeat of his feats from that season can see United make some real moves up the table.

Calvin (Dial Square): Juan Mata. It was a difficult choice between the Spaniard and Wayne Rooney but his signing lifted the team and the atmosphere in the Manchester United camp. His quick turns and assists will be vital in the scoring of goals.

What is Manchester United’s biggest weakness?

Sami (Shankly’s Men): They’ve lost two senior experienced figures in Nemanja Vidic & Rio Ferdinand at the centre of defence, while neither of Evans, Smalling, Jones look like they’ll be moved on, which means they’ll be key men at the back. Despite someone like Van Gaal in there, and even if they sign another defender (with no proper available ones out there), that doesn’t inspire confidence. Added to the defence, their midfield shortage has been well documented; Herrera is a good addition, but not an entire solution.

Zac (The Invisible Men): Midfield; it’s been partially addressed with the addition of Herrera, but are Carrick, Cleverly and Fellaini (if he stays) good enough?

Vishal (Under the Bridge): When Jonny Evans looks like your most convincing centre back, you know you’re in trouble. Of course, van Gaal could sort it all out, and talents like Smalling, and Jones might finally come good, but it looks shaky for them in this area at the moment.

Calvin (Dial Square): Midfield. Ander Herrera solves only one of their midfield problems. In my opinion, they lack a highly energetic box to box midfielder who can alternate between defense and attack.

What do you think of Louis Van Gaal as a manager?

Sami (Shankly’s Men): The biggest factor in Louis Van Gaal is his ability as a pure coach. He knows what he wants of his players, from fitness, to training routines, to movements on the pitch, he’s the entire footballing package. His arrogance is often his drawback, with higher management in mind. However, Van Gaal is exactly what United needed after the horror of last season, instead of some of the other names that were thrown around. But supporters need to be vary, he isn’t immune to failure.

Zac (The Invisible Men): He’s loud, he’s arrogant, he’s brilliant and he’s a winner. He’s United in a nutshell – they’re perfect for each other.

Vishal (Under the Bridge): This is by far the most interesting situation of all. Van Gaal is class, and he will surely improve upon last season. But winning titles and trophies isn’t going to be as easy. He’s going to come up against some tough rivals. He’ll also need to show his innovative side a lot more. Sticking to a default formation or game plan wont really work. Good manager, let’s see what he gets out of his team though. He probably wont do badly enough to get sacked

Calvin (Dial Square): Van Gaal makes the most of the players he has at his disposal. The near fire sale of a number of the Dutch players in his World Cup team from their clubs certainly is testament to that statement. I find his use of 3 center backs highly questionable and has rarely worked successfully in the Premier League. An experienced manager like him will be highly effective in rebuilding the United squad following the retirement of their most successful figure at the helm. I see him at the club for a minimum of 3 years.

Which young Talent Radar player do you see making the maximum impact?

Sami (Shankly’s Men): There aren’t too many options now are there? Luke Shaw has to be the stand-out pick from the side. Many questioned the fee involved but given age & talent, it’s a smart investment; a good decade in him at least. He is at such a stage of his career that he can be moulded into any type of player the coach wants. We’ll be hearing Luke Shaw years from now saying what an important figure Van Gaal was in his career. Though for his sake, I hope the pressure in his first season is at a minimum.

Zac (The Invisible Men): Luke Shaw.

Vishal (Under the Bridge): Without a doubt, Luke Shaw. He’s been brought in as the long term solution to the left back problem. United don’t want to worry about that for a while. If Louis van Gaal does go through with the 3-5-2 though, he’ll be used as a wing back, and his attacking instincts will have to be honed to ensure he can play that role.

Calvin (Dial Square): Luke Shaw. The ex Saints player will face the pressure of proving himself on the big stage having been involved in a big money move to the Manchester club. His attacking potential is no doubt of large value but perhaps some much needed work on the conservative, more defensive side of his game could see him progress to among the best full backs in the modern game.

What do you think of Manchester United’s transfer activity?

Sami (Shankly’s Men): At the time of writing, you’d have to be worried if you’re a United supporter. Certainly at least two names will be coming in, but I don’t believe that “marquee” player every one has been screaming for will, neither is someone like that required (no matter what people may have you believe). The extremely worrying part would be in defence. They will sign a centre-back, but there aren’t too many options, and anyone who would come in may not be a major upgrade. Added to that, it’s hard to replace leadership at the back, with none of the existing bunch offering that.

Zac (The Invisible Men): It’s been quieter than expected, but more is surely coming. Luke Shaw will be brilliant and Herrera could become their midfield lynchpin, but they need more help in midfield and van Gaal must be desperate to clear out their deadwood.

Vishal (Under the Bridge): Luke Shaw has been mentioned as the youngster to watch, but Ander Herrera is the more important signing. Central midfield has been a problem area for a long time, and Herrera is a big step in the right direction for United. Of course, it would all be moot if he were to flop too, so his performances will be very important for United.

Calvin (Dial Square): The Manchester side need to sign atleast one more midfielder, winger and center back. Luke Shaw in my opinion has been their best acquisition. The young left back will add some much needed attacking verve as well as crossing ability to team that was poor at precisely that, among other things last season.

Follow Sami on Twitter @SamiFaizullah, Zac @MacPhever, Vishal @VishalNPatel7 and Calvin @CalvinXGomez

 Give a read to all our The Devil’s Advocate articles.

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