Man Utd in 2014/15 – Van Gaal must add experience to defence

Read Man City in 2014/15 – Mangala can help push European ambitions

Read Newcastle in 2014/15 – A new hope?

The post-Ferguson era has, so far, brought a swathe of unwanted records. Under the management of David Moyes, Man Utd finished with their lowest ever Premier League points tally, they failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1995, they suffered three consecutive defeats for the first time since 2001 and they were beaten home and away by Man City and Liverpool for the first time since the start of the Premier League era. Although it wasn’t a complete capitulation, it is fair to say the Scot’s tenure was a disaster.

In fairness, Moyes wasn’t necessarily helped by the absence of a recruitment drive from the club’s directors, but was ‘culpable’ for the seemingly panic purchase of Marouane Fellaini, and his inability to integrate him within his system. Old Trafford became anything but a fortress and other Premier League clubs smelt blood, with Premier League home defeats to Swansea, Newcastle and West Brom and several others following. A seventh place finish and a 3rd round exit in the FA Cup made for an excruciating campaign, with club legend Ryan Giggs taking over for the last few games when Moyes was eventually sacked.

Aims for the season ahead

New manager Louis van Gaal’s first priority is to restore order, particularly at home and return fortress status to Old Trafford. Given that former stalwarts Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic have moved on, the former Dutch manager must now focus on maturing his young defence. With only five senior defenders at his disposal a week before the season starts, van Gaal’s summer spending is evidently not over but currently the Red Devils’ defence has an average age of only 23 years. This is far lower than their rivals; Man City (average age of defence – 26.7 years), Arsenal (26.43), Chelsea (26), Liverpool (25.5) and Tottenham (24.62). Alongside age, the Man Utd defence also lacks Premier League experience – Rafael (99), Shaw (60), Smalling (88), Jones (107) and Evans (132) have only accumulated 486 Premier League appearances between them. Chelsea’s John Terry has 421 Premier League appearances alone, and it is imperative that van Gaal looks to replace this type of experience, leadership and dressing room influence left behind by Evra and Vidic.

Key summer signing so far

Luke Shaw. The young left back as so far performed in the Premier League with a maturity coupled with youthful vigour. Although still learning his trade, he shows fearlessness and positive drive going forward and will fit seamlessly into either a 4-2-3-1 or, as many suspect van Gaal might opt for, his famed 5-3-2 approach utilising hard-working wing backs, with which his Dutch side reached the semi-finals in Brazil this summer. At £33m, although he bears a heavy price tag, he has ten years on Chelsea’s newest defensive acquisition Luis Felipe, who cost only £15m less. Shaw (33) created only five fewer chances than Evra (38) last season and completed more than twice the amount successful take-ons (56) than the Frenchman (26). Defensively, the England man (4) made only one fewer block than Evra (5) but won seven more tackles (61) than the new Juventus man did (54).

Predicted finish: 4th

In Louis van Gaal, Man Utd have a manager who is used to challenging for and winning silverware, and someone whose working relationship with Robin van Persie may give the Dutch striker a second wind this season alongside Wayne Rooney. Juan Mata has already started strongly in pre-season, adopting a more familiar central role in behind the strikers. Ander Herrera has improved an average midfield and will almost be certainly be joined by more big name signings before August is out. The fact they won’t have the distraction of European football may fast track their recovery time and leave them fresher to push hard for a fourth place finish.

(Thanks to, and


  1. […] Read Man Utd in 2014/15 – Van Gaal must add experience to defence […]

  2. […] Read Man Utd in 2014/15 – Van Gaal must add experience to defence […]

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