1. The Chosen One is gone…long live the King
No reasonable United fan will harbour any real or lasting resentment towards David Moyes. He was the wrong choice and always seemed overawed by the scale of the task he faced. Louis van Gaal will have none of the Scot’s problems that he had in trying to manage United.
The Dutchman lit up the World Cup with his tactical intelligence and complete confidence in making big decisions. If Moyes was a plankton, van Gaal is the shark who will take a bite out of anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path.
Van Gaal’s decision to bring in Netherlands Under-21 coach Albert Stuivenberg whilst retaining Ryan Giggs as assistant manager shows a welcome combination of commitment to youth and an appreciation of continuity. There is an aura of authority already surrounding van Gaal before he has set up his office.
2. Robin van Persie reborn
Van Persie was a wretched sight under Moyes, a fragile shadow of the imperious striker who terrified the Premier League in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season and his league goal tally dipped from 26 to 12 as injuries began to resurface.
The low point was the defeat to Olympiakos when van Persie openly hinted his dissatisfaction with Moyes’ tactics. Whether he should have done so, and whether he and other players’ efforts at times during last season was acceptable, is open to question but the fact is this: Van Persie’s ability to perform at his peak is utterly dependant on his relationship with his manager. In Van Gaal, he has an immediate ally.
The only thing that made United fans happier than watching his breath-taking header against Spain was the high-five with van Gaal that followed. Remember that penalty against Stoke when he nearly bowled over Sir Alex with a bear-hug? That’s the kind of spirit in which Van Persie is likely to start the year. Opposition defences should be ready to batten down the hatches.
3. The new boys
There was a point during the Luke Shaw saga when Ed Woodward must have been sweating harder than Lee Evans in the Amazon. For a while, it seemed it would never get done but £27m later, the deal was finalised.
Shaw’s hefty price tag will mean the young man will be under immediate scrutiny but it should be remembered that he is only 19 and may need at least a season to adapt to his new environment.
The 24-year-old Spaniard’s versatility puts Herrera in great stead from the offset and his propensity to shoot, combined with his tough tackling, means he is equally at home further forward or lying a little deeper in midfield.
The pre-season tour of the US will be the perfect opportunity for Van Gaal to experiment. What is certain is that with Herrera, Mata, Kagawa, Carrick, Cleverley and Fellaini all vying for central spot, there won’t be room for everyone.