One Thing Each Manchester United Player Must Improve This Offseason
The battle for next season's Premier League title will begin this summer.
Manchester United may have romped home with a few games to spare last term, but they should not rest on their laurels.
Every player in the current squad could stand to improve in certain areas, however minor or significant that specific concern is.
Here is a breakdown of the Red Devils by player, highlighting an aspect of their games that needs a little work.
David De Gea
David de Gea's improvement last season was tremendous. It feels somewhat harsh to pinpoint an area he needs to work on.
His confidence swelled as the campaign wore on. The Spaniard was no longer the butter-fingers many in the media claimed him to be.
This being said, he could still provide a little more bark in his own penalty area. This should come as he improves his grasp of the English language.
Rafael is another vastly improved player, especially considering where he was at a year ago.
Last term, he was a prolific attacking threat down the right flank, outshining the side's wingers, and an increasingly reliable defensive player.
However, there were occasions when he was caught flat-footed by a particularly pacy winger. Better balance is an area he could stand to improve in.
Patrice Evra had a bit of renaissance season for the Red Devils, dismissing claims he is past being able to compete at the top level.
David Moyes may fancy bringing his trusted soldier Leighton Baines to Old Trafford from Everton, but would this be money well spent?
Evra could still stand to work on his positioning, though. A few too many times in previous seasons, he has been caught out having pushed too far up the pitch.
Area: Footballing IQ
Having spent most of last season struggling with injury problems, Phil Jones came back strong in the final few months.
He was mostly impressive in the defensive midfield role, man-marking X-factors like Cristiano Ronaldo on the opposing teams.
Yet he remains a little too exuberant diving into tackles. He needs to rein in this recklessness; otherwise, he could be a perennial injury concern for the Red Devils.
Rio Ferdinand's biggest weakness in past seasons has been his lack of mobility.
It is harsh to ask a 34-year-old with ongoing back troubles to improve in this area, but it is something that is a growing concern.
However, far be it from me to criticise the former England international. He was an excellent mainstay in a back line that drastically improved in the new year.
Area: Slide Tackling
At times, Jonny Evans seems like the odd man out in Manchester United's defensive ranks.
But to the informed, he is no longer the erratic, skinny-as-a-rake player he was in past seasons. He is fast becoming one of the most reliable players in the squad.
He still has room to grow, though. One area he could develop is his slide tacking. One can recall his grimacing clash with Jonjo Shelvey against Liverpool last season for proof.
Antonio Valencia was probably United's most disappointing player last season.
Part of the reason for this may be that expectations were set too high from the previous campaign, when he was arguably the Red Devils' best player.
Blame fitness problems and a niggling ankle injury for his lack of explosiveness. He will surely bounce back in 2013/14.
Anderson may not be around to see the start of next season, so this slide could eventually prove a tad redundant.
But if David Moyes decides to keep the burly Brazilian around, he must help him improve the fundamentals of his game.
Anderson has been frustratingly inconsistent since moving to Old Trafford. He is not yet the creative midfield threat United thought they were buying in 2007.
Wayne Rooney is another player whose future at Old Trafford is currently in doubt.
It has not been long since the English forward first expressed a desire to leave United. He is a world-class player, but his attitude is falling short of those same standards.
Do Manchester United really want someone on the books who no longer has any desire to play for the club?
Area: Central Ability
Coming up with an area of Ryan Giggs' game that needs improvement was the hardest part of writing this article.
The Welsh veteran will turn 40 this year, yet he continues to defy age by consistently adapting his style of play to suit his physical limitations.
He has played more in central midfield alongside Michael Carrick in past seasons, and if there is one criticism to be made, it is that the two have never looked convincing together in the middle.
Despite a stuttering 2012/13 campaign, big things are still expected of central defender Chris Smalling.
The England international started just 10 Premier League games in a season restricted by injury.
If there is one predominant area of his game that needs work, it is his defensive awareness. His aerial ability is fine, and he is surprisingly quick for his size, but his marking can occasionally let him down.
Having started last term neck-and-neck with David de Gea in the race to become United's first-choice goalkeeper, Anders Lindegaard subsequently dropped off the pace a bit.
The Dane lacked confidence when he was given opportunities to play, fumbling a couple of crosses and missing some relatively easy saves. He let in five against West Bromwich Albion on the final day of the season.
Next season will be difficult for him to earn a place in the first team considering de Gea's excellent form.
Another tricky one. Javier Hernandez may not be the best all-round player in the United squad, but for the type of footballer he is, there are few flaws in his game.
He scored 18 valuable goals in all competitions last term, six more than he did the previous season.
If there is something he can develop, it is his ability to play high-quality football for the full 90 minutes. Of course, this depends on whether David Moyes gives him the opportunities to do so.
It was not Nemanja Vidic's fault that he missed most of the first half of last season.
When he did return to action, he was key in resurrecting a Manchester United defence that was starting to lose its gleam.
If the world-class centre-back can stay healthy next season, expect the goals-against column to make for much better reading.
Area: Early-Season Form
Michael Carrick was not only one of United's best players last season but a standout in the Premier League as a whole.
The holding midfielder was imperious down the stretch for the Red Devils, pulling the strings from midfield with a typical assurance.
If the 31-year-old can be so dominant in the early months of the season, Moyes' side can get off to a real flyer.
This one is simple. If Nani is ever to become a Manchester United legend, he needs to improve his consistency.
He is capable of the highlight reel run past three defenders. He is capable of cracking a 30-yard shot that nestles in the top corner. But too often he goes missing in games.
If he remains at the club past the summer, he will need to deliver on a regular basis to earn the trust of Moyes.
Area: One-on-One Skill
I have been one of Ashley Young's biggest critics in the past. In my mind, he may not have the pure talent to succeed at the highest level.
The English winger is an energetic presence on the left flank, tracking back and helping out in defence, but going forward, he lacks the imagination that players in his position need.
He is not the fastest winger, so he must rely more on his footwork to beat his opposing number one-on-one.
Sir Alex Ferguson clearly had faith in Danny Welbeck, and David Moyes surely will, too.
But for a player primarily billed as a forward, he is far too inconsistent in front of goal. Too often he has lacked composure in the opposition penalty area.
Last season, he scored only two goals in 39 appearances in all competitions. He is a versatile player, but he still needs to find the back of the net more often.
Robin Van Persie
Area: Aerial Ability
How do you critique a player like Robin van Persie, Manchester United's best player and a world-class goal scorer?
The Dutchman scored 30 goals last season, justifying the £24 million paid for his services the summer before.
With David Moyes sure to push for more wing play next season, perhaps van Persie could stand to be a little more prolific in the air? I'm clutching at straws, though.
Tom Cleverley is certainly a promising player, but to become a regular first-team player at Old Trafford, he needs to start asserting a little more dominance in midfield.
His partnership with Michael Carrick in the early parts of last season was sound but ultimately lacking in creativity.
Cleverley needs to stamp his mark on a position that is currently up for grabs.
Speaking about Shinji Kagawa last season to the Japan Times, Sir Alex Ferguson said, "There is a physicality to [the Premier League] which is different from Germany, but next year he’ll be better."
Kagawa showed his vast talent in patches toward the tail end of last season but struggled otherwise having been played out of position and dealing with injury concerns.
His adaptation to the physicality of the British game will improve over time.
Area: Big-Game Capacity
Lastly, we come to Alex Buttner, the player nipping at Patrice Evra's heels for the starting left-back job.
But if he wants to become David Moyes' first choice, he will need to prove he can deliver against the top teams in Britain and Europe.