Manchester United’s pursuit for a center back has finally reached it’s conclusion. Starting off as a quest to woo Mats Hummels over to Old Trafford, United’s attempt to land a defensive anchor didn’t go as planned as plans A, B (Thomas Vermaelen), C (Mehdi Benatia), and D (Ezequiel Garay) didn’t pan out. The search for a top class defender degraded to a hunt for any defender who played in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Marcos Rojo played in the World Cup, so United bought his services.
With a new center back on board, is Manchester United finally a complete team? On paper yes. A defensive rotation of Rojo, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, and Jonny Evans is better than what most of the EPL can offer, but falls a tad bit short compared to the top five clubs. Still it is strong enough to edge the club to a top four spot. For once, the holes have been plugged.
Lets go over the personnel list again. At keeper Manchester United has David De Gea, one of the top keepers in the world. At defense, United has the previously mentioned center backs along with Rafael, Luke Shaw, and youngsters Michael Keane and Reece James. At midfield, the Red Devils have a collection of ball winners like Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher and creative minds like Juan Mata, Shinji Kagawa, Ander Herrera, Adnan Januzaj, and Ashley Young. At forward is a deep pool of scorers such as Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, and Chicharito.
This is a balanced team with enough depth to field two competitive teams in the Premier League; however, as we all know, this is not the best team in the EPL. Don’t get this statement confused. I strongly believe we have the one of the most talented squads in the EPL and if Sir Alex Ferguson was still the boss, we would be favorites to win it all. But something is hindering this complete talented squad from being the best. That thing is called cohesion.
It was easy to be fooled into thinking that Manchester United’s preseason was proof of a seamless transition to Louis Van Gaal’s system. I was fooled. However, as fans scramble for answers behind United’s 2-1 loss to Swansea City, the reality became clearer. Victories over B-squads in a practice match doesn’t prove anything. It’s just practice.
Louis Van Gaal isn’t a quick fix to United upcoming woes. Neither is Marcos Rojo. If Manchester United starts looking for results now, chances are they will never see them in the future. They need time to mesh and time to accept that becoming a top flight team is a process. If Rooney and RVP are the focus of their offense and Ander Herrera will be the core of the midfield, then United will need time to figure out the main formation and tactics that will make up the identity of their football.
Sir Alex Ferguson devoted 27 years to the 4-4-2 identity and held strong to his system throughout his career. While Sir Alex was flexible enough to cater to certain players, he focused wholeheartedly on his style of football and did a great job building it. Regardless of who was selected to the squad, United delivered a consistently excellent brand of football on the pitch. As long as players bought into the system, the team’s performance would remain standard. It was the reason why players like Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley looked capable of helping rather than hurting United during Sir Alex’s tenure.
While buying into a system is a process, that doesn’t mean United should wave their white flags this season. There is no doubt they’ll be fighting for the top of the table, but they must put their faith in Van Gaal’s tactics if they want to see improvement. At the same time Van Gaal will need some time to understand his players more and figure where and when they are best suited on the pitch. Unlike Moyes, Van Gaal has a resume of accomplishments to assert himself as a respectable manager. He knows what he is doing. The players should know it too. Fans have to be patient and be certain that improvements will be made by the tenth game of the season. By that time, fans will have a good idea of what United’s future will look like if they remain as is. It won’t be like Sir Alex’s United, but it certainly will be better than Moyes’. No need to scream for more transfers or cling onto unending Mats Hummels rumors. Just patience and supporting will suffice.