Secondly, the Wayne Rooney conundrum continues. The English goalscoring record-holder is being picked on reputation and leadership qualities rather than product on the field. At some point, Van Gaal will have to drop Rooney to bring Memphis Depay or Andreas Pereira back into the team. Perhaps the quick succession of games will allow Van Gaal to have an excuse for “resting” Rooney and facilitate a change in a forward line that currently hinges on Anthony Martial’s young shoulders.
Lastly, as the Swansea City and PSV Eindhoven games have shown, opposition teams have a clear blueprint on how to beat United. While United regularly has enough possession to embarrass The Omen movie franchise, this control often involves passing across the opposition’s midfield, rather than through it. Opposition teams are aware that as long as they remain organized, United’s players are wary of playing high-risk, high-reward passes for fear of admonishment from their manager. Therefore, opposition teams simply bide their time and use a pacy winger or a forward to target Marcus Rojo or Daley Blind in a foot race. Moreover, flat crosses pulled back from the wings to the top of United’s box find an unmarked man, often due to midfield runners getting past the aging Bastian Schweinsteiger. Van Gaal needs to find ways to neutralize these attacking threats; unfortunately, it seems his answer is simply more possession.
United will be looking to bolster their attacking line-up with pacy, direct players. Southampton forward Sadio Mane was linked with Manchester United in the summer, and you can expect those links to reemerge. Mane has the pace, team ethic and work-rate that Van Gaal seems to want in his wingers. Moreover, playing Mane from the left would allow Martial to move centrally, a move many would like to see.
An emerging link would be a move for once-wonderkid Alexandre “The Duck” Pato. While he may have been forgotten in Europe, Pato seems to have put his injury-woes behind him at Sao Paulo and is scoring goals. And given the duo’s current form, United will also be linked with Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
Due to Luke Shaw’s long-term future at Manchester United, the left back position will need a short-term fix. I know this might irk some United supporters, but instead of spending millions on a new left back, perhaps the best bet would be to sign a free agent: Ashley Cole. Cole’s move to Roma did not go as planned, but one cannot underestimate the impact the ex-Arsenal and Chelsea man would have on a young United defense. Cole is arguably the greatest left back in Premier League history, and having him add depth to a depleted United squad would be a wise option.