Why United must buy with an eye to the future

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Neville: Premier League surprised Van Gaal-media-3With the transfer window set to open in just over two weeks, United fans are filled with a strange mixture of feelings, from sheer optimism to an hard-to-dislodge sense of urgency.

After an appalling  2013-14 campaign, the Reds endured an up and down season which saw them finish in fourth place and qualify for a Champions league playoff spot.

Had United fans been asked a year ago if finishing in fourth would be considered a success this season, most would have, hesitantly, said yes.

Of course, a club as big as United should never settle for anything less than a league title, but after a dreadful season under David Moyes, any improvement, should have been deemed a success.

However, having now gone through a full season under Louis Van Gaal, another top four finish will not be received with such optimism. 

In a season where Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao both vastly under achieved, we were left with a sense of “what if?”, as Van Gaal’s side never seemed to fully click into gear.

That is not to say that they could have won the league for Chelsea, barring mishaps to Newcastle and West Ham, were by far the most consistent team in the league deservedly lifted the trophy.

However, apart from them, it’s hard to find another team that was thoroughly impressive throughout the season. For the second time in three seasons, City’s bid to retain the title evaporated as quickly as their fans leave the Etihad when going one goal down, while  Arsenal, with the exception of Alexis Sanchez, never looked like title material, although they finished the season strongly.

Having said that, however, United stumbled over the line to meet their minimum requirement and have much work to do this summer if they’re to get their hands on some silverware next season.

As Van Gaal has stressed before, the squad needs to add quality and depth across the board and, as per every other summer, they’ve been linked with the who’s who of European football.

Last summer’s £150m didn’t quite delivered the desired results, but we should expect a lot more next season, for Angel Di Maria, Luke Shaw, and Marcos Rojo will impress as long as they are healthy. Rojo showed some promise when not injured and Luke Shaw will bounce back, and a full pre-season under his belt should help him enormously.

Di Maria is a bit perplexing. While he is a brilliant attacker with loads of pace and flair, he was also lazy getting back and was completely ill equipped for the physicality of English football.

Selling him this summer would be a huge mistake but until we see him grabbing games by the scruff of their necks then defending him becomes increasingly difficult, particularly given he promised so much when he arrived.

Daley Blind and Ander Herrera were by far the best two signings made last summer and both will form United’s backbone in coming years, for while the likes of Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick still form the heart and soul of the squad, neither is getting any younger.

And therein lies one of the key issues United will face this summer, they need players who will immediately help them to bridge the gap from Chelsea but they also need to plan ahead.

Van Gaal showed last season he’s not afraid of handling youngster a chance and one feels he will do the same next season, particularly with United having to negotiate a higher number of games if they reach the Champions League group stages.

James Wilson could have a more prominent role than he had this season, given Radamel Falcao’s departure but the 2015-16 campaign could be crucial for other two youngsters – Adnan Januzaj and Andres Pereira.

Pereira and Januzaj are United’s two best young attacking players and to part ways with them this summer would be a huge mistake. Januzaj has proven what he can do with consistent playing time but, as was the case with many players last season, he struggled to find form between stints as a sub or the rare start.

He is still young and often times tries to do too much but that’s what raw talents are often culpable of.

Pereira, meanwhile, is coming off a season that saw him win the Reserve Player of the Year award and the 19-year-old obviously has recently made it known he intends to play in the first team next season.

Loaning them out could be a possibility if neither are getting any significant first team minutes come the January transfer window but until then expect Van Gaal to involve them, particularly in the League Cup.

Both are seemingly happy at the club, have plenty of potential and some great players to learn from. They might not become regulars overnight but the Paul Pogba fiasco shows United can’t afford to lose this sort of talents anymore.

Jason Travaglini (@trav_elocity)

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