Predicting Manchester United's Starting XI at the Beginning of 2014/15 Season

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentMay 1, 2014

Prepare yourself, because this might be a shock.

Ready? Ok. Here it comes. David Moyes was not solely responsible for Manchester United's dismal season. Hard to believe, right? Well, it's true.

Moyes made mistakes. Plenty of them. But he was left with an ageing squad that under-performed under his guidance.

It means whoever takes charge next will need to make changes this summer if he hopes to be more successful. 

The minimum requirement next season will be a top-four finish. And without the distraction of European football, the board might also expect a title challenge and at least one cup run. The level of expectation at Old Trafford never dips too much. Regardless of what has gone before.

Privately, there is a growing acceptance among the hierarchy that Louis van Gaal is the frontrunner to succeed Moyes.

Ryan Giggs is thought to be too inexperienced while any hope of luring Carlo Ancelotti appeared to die the minute Real Madrid thumped Bayern Munich to reach the Champions League final.

Van Gaal, if he gets the job, will take over a team that is set to finish seventh in the Premier League. 

But he won't walk into a complete disaster. He will have a core of good players such as David Gea, Phil Jones, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie to work with.

He's also not a manager who has a history of spending money for the sake of it:

I'm not the type of coach who just goes out and buys players for the sake of it. I'm a coach who wants to, and can, improve players.

He should find plenty to work with at Old Trafford.

There should be no concerns about De Gea, who is fast becoming one of the best goalkeepers in the world. The Spaniard is perhaps the only player who can say he has improved this season.

The defence needs rebuilding. There is little doubt about that. But the extent of the work will be determined by the futures of Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, who are both out of contract at the end of the season.

Nemanja Vidic has already signed for Inter, and United will need at least one new centre-half.  

They have been watching Porto's French defender Eliaquim Mangala. But it's looking increasing likely he will sign for Manchester City, something the board are aware of.

They might have to turn their attentions to Benfica's Ezequiel Garay, Celtic's Virgil Van Dijk, Feyenoord's Stefan de Vrij, Freiburg's Matthias Ginter or Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund.

Even if Evra stays for another year, they may still follow through with Moyes' interest in Southampton left-back Luke Shaw. Young and English, he fits United's profile.

He won't come cheap, but signing a player—still only 18—who could be the club's left-back for the next 15 years will add to his appeal.

Midfield is the biggest problem area for any prospective new manager. 

Van Gaal has traditionally set his teams up in a 4-3-3 formation, a system inspired by Holland's Total Football:

You have to play as a team and not as an individual.

That is why I am always looking at the vision, then the team, then who fits in that profile that I make from all positions in my system 4-3-3 because I always play that.

Michael Carrick is under contract for another year and will stay despite a relatively disappointing year. 

Marouane Fellaini will have to win over both the fans and the new manager, while Darren Fletcher will hope he can continue to recover his fitness following stomach surgery.

Despite last summer's pursuit of Cesc Fabregas coming to a humiliating end, the Barcelona midfielder remains a target. There have also been talks with Sporting Lisbon over 22-year-old Portuguese midfielder William Carvalho.

Tom Cleverley has had a poor season, but he is more settled now Moyes has gone. He should be buoyed by Van Gaal's willingness to work with, and improve, young players. The same applies to Danny Welbeck and Adnan Januzaj:

I always want to know what is below in the youth. The players who are talented. (Herman Gerland) said to me Muller, Badstuber and Alaba (at Bayern Munich).

He said to me these are the players you can maybe use. I observed them and let them train with us and then decided where to play them.

If it is a young player who can do it then I will select him. If it is an old player, never mind, age is not important that is not the important factor.

Van Gaal's preferred system has implications for Wayne Rooney. 

Sir Alex Ferguson and Moyes both used Rooney in tandem with van Persie. But that's unlikely to happen in Van Gaal's 4-3-3 with either Rooney or Van Persie forced to play off the right or the left.

Shinji Kagawa is likely to stay now Moyes has gone, and record signing Juan Mata isn't going anywhere, either. However, there will be doubts over the futures of Nani and Ashley Young. 

United also have a genuine interest in Edinson Cavani and Marco Reus, although it is privately accepted at board level it will be difficult to convince Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund to sell.

Whoever takes over at Old Trafford has work to do. Despite Moyes' failings, he was let down by the players he inherited. The squad needs to be improved and fine-tuned.

It will get an overhaul this summer, with the new manager expected to be well-backed in the transfer market. 

It will be down to the board to pick the right manager, and players, to help United recover from such a demoralising season. They cannot afford another year of failure.

United's predicted starting XI at the beginning of the 2014/15 season: De Gea, Jones, Shaw, Evans, De Vrij, Carrick, Carvalho, Mata, Valencia, Rooney, Van Persie.

Information obtained first-hand.


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