Football's fine line between love, hate and sarcasm

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Christ – where do you start? Last season, Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement gift to Manchester United was to remind everyone that he was the best (and also leaving David Moyes a physical gift called Zaha). It was always discussed that the job to have was to be the one after the one after Fergie, but I very much doubt David Moyes could've said no to the opportunity. What it looks like now is that he was a patsy who was on a hiding to nothing. He didn't exactly make a good start at it; getting rid of most of the backroom staff was one thing, but the bigger issue was the utter atrocity that was last summer's transfer dealings.

Random men with briefcases trying to prise Ander Herrera out of Spain was one thing, but paying a lot more for Marouane Fellaini on the last day of the transfer window when they could've sign him for less much earlier was pure madness. The whole season made a mockery of David Moyes' 10 year career at Everton (something Roberto Martinez wasn't exactly helping with), and also made Fergie complicit in this mess.

Once the axe had fallen, one of the first names to be banded around was Louis van Gaal, and sure enough LvG has taken the reins and already is making his mark. On the back of an extremely impressive World Cup, optimism is up with United – mine included – as most pundits are predicting they will go back to their winning ways.
TRANSFER ACTIVITY

United have learnt somewhat from last season's transfer mess; by acting quickly and decisively. Ander Herrera has now been brought over to Manchester, and Luke Shaw has been bought in for a fee which is ridiculous even when you do factor in the English player tax, especially considering what the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool have paid for full-backs this summer. Shaw has subsequently been told he is un-fit and has trained alone.
United's transfers out however have been more telling; three of their starting four at the back last year have left, and only Shaw has come in to replace one of them. There are suggestions that offers can be made for the likes of Fellaini and Javier Hernandez, possibly even Kagawa. Due to the Dutch team's extended run in the World Cup, van Gaal hasn't had as much time as he maybe thought he would have to assess his players and bring in his own choices.
Defence is most definitely a priority; United fans yearn for Mats Hummels, but surely other (Champions League playing clubs) will be in for him too. A big star signing like Marco Reus or Angel Di Maria would be welcomed by United fans, but the lack of Champions League football may once again affect their decisions, especially when seeing how the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal have strengthened this summer, a return to Europe's premier competition is not a given by any means.
PLAYER TO WATCH

It's a big season for Juan Mata, cast aside by Jose Mourinho, and in true David Moyes form, was played out of position during his first six months at United. Based on the Dutch World Cup campaign, you can see where Mata would fit into a LvG system, in the same way that Sneijder did in Brazil. Juan Mata has proven Premier League quality, and after season upon season of poor central midfielders, a Herrera/Mata combination could be exciting for United.
United must get back into the Top 4 this season. Despite the lack of Champions League football, they still have a huge amount of power in terms of pulling in sponsorship money and good players, but every year out of the top 4 increases the gap between them and the rest, and they can't afford for that to happen. Optimism will be high based on the Dutch performance at the WC, and from van Gaal's attitude towards his team so far.
Until LvG starts bringing in his own players, it's difficult to predict their finish, but I think considering the strength of City, Chelsea and now Arsenal (based on this summer's transfers), you have to put United below them. Although, like most football fans that grew up in the mid 90's – I hope they get relegated.

PREDICTION: 4TH

 

       

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