Twelve months is a long time in football. So it has proven for both David Moyes and Manchester United. A year ago, United were champions of England yet again and Moyes was set to take over the reins as ‘the chosen one,’ anointed by Sir Alex Ferguson himself, to lead the club to further glory.
However, last season didn’t exactly work out as either had planned. Moyes struggled to achieve results and seemingly to command the requisite respect of the dressing room. On the pitch, the Red Devils have missed out on European football for the first time in a quarter of a century. Moyes’ sacking after just ten months was perhaps inevitable. The most immediate question was who would replace Moyes? It was no surprise that veteran Dutch coach Louis van Gaal was recently appointed as Moyes’ successor, and is considered a popular choice. However, the problems faced by Moyes have not disappeared and there are plenty of unanswered questions which van Gaal will need to tackle head on.
Most pressing will be a candid assessment of the current squad at Old Trafford. There are plenty of individuals such as Nani, Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez who failed to deliver under Moyes and some believe that they are surplus to requirements at United. Even expensive January signing Juan Mata has disappointed. Van Gaal will need to decide whether to persevere with these much-maligned players or to cut his losses. And then of course, he will need to think carefully about the players he decides to recruit. An obvious area which needs attention is the heart of defence. Captain Nemanja Vidic has joined Inter Milan while stalwart Rio Ferdinand has agreed to leave the club. Some may argue that youngsters Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, who will both go to the World Cup with England, are ready made replacements. However, van Gaal, who reportedly has a war chest of anything between £150-200 million to play with, may also look to bring in more experiences heads.
Beyond the playing staff, van Gaal is walking into a club with huge history. He will need to work out how best to preserve its traditions while stamping his authority on the club. None more so than with regards his backroom staff. By all reports, van Gaal is hardly a shy character and having won league championships in Holland, Germany and Spain, his self-confidence is justified. And yet, he cannot afford to alienate some of United’s most treasured servants. It has already been confirmed that legend Ryan Giggs will be van Gaal’s number two, a sensible move especially considering that Giggs did a decent job briefly holding the fort after Moyes’ departure. However, the futures of Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville, all on the coaching staff are in doubt. All are highly valued by United fans as important members of the ‘Class of 92.’ Showing them the door would not be a deeply unpopular move, but it could also undermine the role of Giggs.
However, at 62-years-old, van Gaal is most certainly his own man and will do things his way. Nonetheless, anything less than a top four finish next season could well see him follow Moyes out of the Old Trafford door.
(Photo Credit: Calcio Streaming / Creative Commons)