May 17, 1990 was a significant day in the illustrious career of Sir Alex Ferguson as manager of Manchester United as well as the club. Lee Martin’s goal in the FA Cup final replay saw The Red Devils pick up their first silverware under the Scottish manager. Since that day, it has been glory glory Man. United under Ferguson with the 2012-13 Premier League title as his swansong.
In his 26-and-a-half years as the Manchester United manager, SAF won 38 titles, over took the legendary Sir Matt Bubsy record as longest serving manager at the club so it was a honour bestowed on him to anoint his successor – David Moyes. The former Everton manager ill-fated tenure lasted just ten months. Manchester United finished the 2013-14 season a record seventh position in the modern day Premier League era. For supporters, board of directors and players, it was a strange place to be and the club acted swiftly by appointing an experienced head in Dutch tactician Louis Van Gaal.
Louis Van Gaal entrance was likened to Jesus Christ arrival at Lazarus tomb to raise him from the dead. United had become the laughing stock of the city at the end of the season with their noisy neighbours winning the league title compared to theirs which ended with no European competition the following season.
Attracting preferred top players became a challenge; several high profile transfer targets opted for other destinations than Old Trafford. The Dutchman’s first priority was to restore the club’s pride and get them back to the Europe premier competition while challenging for the title and winning silverwares.
In his first year, Louis Van Gaal was still able to bring in a few quality players – Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, etc to the theatre of dreams but the initial buzz about them and the team fizzled out as the season went on. Manchester United managed to finish in the top four bracket comfortably, nevertheless they will have to make it into the group stages of the UEFA Champions League via play offs. While Van Gaal has been trying to steady the ship on the pitch, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has mesmerized in the board room like Cristiano Ronaldo with lucrative commercial deals for the club.
With both ends achieving their set objectives at the end of last season, Manchester United preparation for the new season has been swift with their statement of intent in the transfer market. Quality reinforcements in midfield and attack has seen German captain Bastian Schweinsteiger join from Bayern Munich, Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton, Memphis Depay from PSV, amongst others. Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos was the top defensive target until he made a u-turn about staying put at the Santiago Bernabeu. This situation has forced the Old Trafford club to put spanner in the works of the Spanish giants who have been courting goalkeeper David De Gea. Rumors making the news confirmed United’s war chest for summer transfers to be in the region of £150 million, which is more than the annual budget of at least half of the football clubs in the top five European leagues.
With the new bumper TV deal for the EPL around the corner and commercial revenues from major sponsors, United are in a strong financial position to challenge in the market. LVG activities in the market must be cheering news for supporters and associates of the club but they have to evaluate their expectations with some caution.
Huge investments come with bigger expectation, risk and the pressure to deliver. Some of the new players arriving especially those from foreign leagues will require adaptability period which varies according to individual players. The manager will need his wealth of experience and overall managerial skills to get the best out of his squad tactically and technically. Last season, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao, both high profile acquisitions failed to light up Old Trafford with their wizardry and goals. They were either square pegs in round holes or the manager couldn’t be patient enough with them, either ways, it turned out to be a fruitless season for all parties concerned. Both players have left Old Trafford.
In addition to the expectation, title rivals, Chelsea and Arsenal have started heaping additional pressure on Manchester United. Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho has bashed his title rivals claiming they want to purchase the Premier League crown, an unbelievable statement from a Chelsea manager. Arsene Wenger has added his voice by stating his surprise at Manchester United ditching their previous tradition for a new approach of buying stars rather than make them.
In the last two decades, Manchester United have not suffered trophy drought beyond two seasons, the burden of expectation for the former Ajax and Barcelona coach will be enormous. With these summer investment, Van Gaal has no excuse in the coming season for United not prospering since the club has been plugged into the Dutchman’s way.
As a note of warning, his last club engagement (Bayern) did not end on a pleasant note.