Barring a mathematical miracle via a fourteen goal swing, Manchester United have all but secured their return to the top four and will once again dine at Europe’s elite table in the Champions League next season. Although it took Louis Van Gaal time to impose himself and his philosophies into the team early doors, he has ultimately achieved the objective of ensuring the club returned to the Champions League. However, a repeat next season would result in questions being asked as to why present deficiencies and areas where Manchester United can improve were not addressed. It is therefore imperative that Van Gaal is pro-active during the summer transfer market to not only compete with fellow Premier League title contenders who are likely to spend big, but also ensure Manchester United continue to improve and put themselves in an excellent position to challenge at the summit. Fans can make the most of special offers to predict who will arrive at Old Trafford, with the rumour mill already churning out a vast number of high-profile players who Van Gaal is believed to be targeting. Manchester United have already made the first major move before the transfer window has even opened, with Memphis Depay on his way from PSV for a reported £24.6 million, but there are certain areas which need to be improved upon.
Manchester United’s current crop of defenders deserve some praise for being more resolute and cutting down on the number of individual errors, but it is fair to say that David De Gea is the main reason why the team will finish in the top four. Fans and pundits have lost count of the number of world-class saves that the Spaniard has made throughout the season, and at times has single-handedly won Manchester United points through his heroic performances. A goalkeeper of considerable quality deserves to receive more protection from a defence of the same calibre, but although the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have shown signs of considerable improvement this season, Manchester United seriously lack a commanding presence or world-class defenders who could take them closer to winning the title. Mats Hummels and Nicolas Otamendi are the type of defenders that Van Gaal should identify as priority signings, as both would undoubtedly bring strength, leadership and quality to an area where Manchester United are still vulnerable against the big teams.
A future replacement for Michael Carrick
Although Michael Carrick has only featured in sixteen Premier League appearances this season, his presence and quality in midfield has been integral to Manchester United’s season. The 33-year-old has lost none of his superb passing abilities, with Carrick important to how the team plays; Daley Blind and Ander Herrera have certainly made an impression since arriving last summer, but Carrick is the one that links the play from defence to attack, and is able to play quick pinpoint passes to ensure Manchester United move forward up the pitch as a collective unit. Concerns about his fitness and injury record should be enough to force Van Gaal to search the market for the player who offers similar dynamic qualities, with Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan instantly standing out as a player who could undoubtedly replace Carrick in the future.
Highly-rated 21-year-old Depay will certainly offer pace and trickery, but as the young Dutchman is more effective as a winger, Van Gaal may consider investing in at least one top quality proven goal-scoring striker. Wayne Rooney, despite having to play in midfield at certain points of the season due to injuries, has still enjoyed a good season in front of goal with twelve to his name, but Radamel Falcao has seriously struggled to prove himself in the Premier League and Robin Van Persie looks a shadow of the player who plundered in twenty-six goals in the title-winning 2012/2013 season. One potential target, Paulo Dybala, is rumoured to have agreed a deal to join Juventus, while there are a number of teams looking at Falcao if Van Gaal does not fancy giving the Colombian another chance following a serious long-term knee injury.