5 Most Important Decisions Manchester United's New Manager Must Make
With the season almost over, and Nemanja Vidic completing an emotional Old Trafford farewell on Tuesday night, thoughts now turn to who will take the reigns at Manchester United for the immediate future.
And that man appears to be Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal, per Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail.
Van Gaal is the alpha male in the race for the United hot seat and it seems that he will be appointed in the very near future.
But what are the most important things he will need to address as a matter of urgency to get the Red Devils back in the top four of the Premier League and competing for trophies?
Here, we look at five areas:
It is the formation that the class of '92 were blooded on and the tactical setup that took Manchester United to a multitude of trophies.
But 4-4-2 is dead, at least when it comes to talking about the Red Devils.
To play the formation successfully you must have world-class wingers and box-to-box midfielders who can tackle, pass, shoot and run all day long.
United have not had this for a long time, and it was Sir Alex Ferguson's ability to get blood out of a stone that allowed the Champions to carry on with the system as their primary tactic.
But 4-4-2 has been dying a death at Old Trafford for a number of years, with its validity coming into question especially against the bigger teams.
This season, David Moyes tried to stick to tradition and use the formation.
And it ended up with his dismissal.
Louis van Gaal is famed for playing a 4-3-3, and this fits in with the status quo of many of Europe's elite teams.
The Dutchman's system also fits the current crop of United players, who simply do not conform to the bombastic nature of 4-4-2.
A move away from United's traditional formation will allow the club to get the best from players like Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa, but it would also facilitate change with a focus on recruiting new talent to play a different way.
Clear out the Deadwood
It is a football cliche to point toward those that should leave a club after a tempestuous change in tenure, but United has its fair share of professionals who should be nowhere near Carrington or Old Trafford.
Players like Anderson and Nani have been masquerading in a United shirt for too long now, offering little in terms of contribution and quality.
Both Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, though regular playing members of the first-team, have provided just six assists between them in a combined 66 Premier League and European appearances, per WhoScored.com.
Is this the Manchester United standard?
A new manager will have to identify these areas of nonperformance very quickly. David Moyes spent most of the season allowing many of these individuals to populate his team and lose him football matches. It is not something Louis van Gaal can contemplate.
United must finish in the top four next season or the new manager will quickly become the former manager.
As important as it is to bring in flesh blood, it is vital to amputate the diseased part of the squad before its inflection becomes terminal.
Worryingly, John Cross of The Mirror reports that van Gaal would possibly like to retain Nani. A persistence with United's perennial underachievers could cost the coach dearly.
Bring in Undoubted World-Class Talent
Of course, it is the time of the year when Manchester United allegedly bid for every player in Europe and generally sign none of them.
In recent times, Manchester United have invested in superior talent such as Robin van Persie and Juan Mata but for many years there has been a supplement of average talent in the ranks.
When David Moyes took over from Sir Alex Ferguson everyone in football knew that he had to buy a world-class midfielder but instead he went back to his old club and spent a King's ransom on Marouane Fellaini.
This is not to directly criticise the Belgian player, he was suitable to supplement United's midfield stock, but not revolutionise the centre.
James Boylan of the Metro reports that Thomas Mueller would like to join Louis van Gaal at United, having worked with him at Bayern Munich. This is specifically the quality of player United need to sign.
Left-back, centre-back and central midfield all need fresh additions and without the allure of Champions League football any new coach would struggle to bring in the very cream of world football.
However, that is what van Gaal will have to do.
Appoint a Genuine Leader of the Dressing Room
The past 12 months have seen United go from an unstoppable collective to a rudderless ship. And much of this has been down to the failure of the senior players at the club.
With Nemanja Vidic now passing into Old Trafford history, the captaincy is once again vacant and the fresh appointment will be one of the new manager's first decisions.
Under David Moyes, it was clear that Wayne Rooney would succeed the Serbian defender but now this is not a done deal.
Louis van Gaal's current national skipper Robin van Persie is of course a prominent player at United, and it would be no surprise to see him given the armband over the England attacker.
And Jamie Jackson of The Guardian confirmed van Gaal and RvP's relationship, writing:
While Rooney is United's highest-paid player, Van Gaal enjoys a close relationship with Robin van Persie, the club's next best-rewarded footballer, naming his countryman as Holland captain, and the pair were regularly seen together at matches during Van Persie's recent recuperation from a knee injury.
Whoever is chosen as United's new captain must give true leadership to his fellow professionals at the club and be the shining example for all in the squad.
Arsene Wenger also saw these qualities in van Persie at Arsenal, and van Gaal will want a good communicator to translate his ideas and philosophies on the football pitch.
Does that sound like Wayne Rooney? No.
Strengthen United's Backroom
No coach runs a football club on his own.
Though David Moyes did not choose to lose Rene Meulensteen, his appointment of Steve Round, Jimmy Lumsden and Phil Neville as his staff, and backbone, hugely contributed to his eventual downfall.
The chemistry that was so evident under Sir Alex Ferguson's regime was all but extinguished by this team of coaches, and they paid the ultimate price for that.
Much talk has centred on whether Louis van Gaal will appoint Ryan Giggs and his fellow Class of '92 teammates to his new backroom, should he become manager. However, what is more important is that the new boss gets the correct backroom in place to take the club forward: A decision based on logic rather than sentiment.
Moyes got this part of his job horribly wrong, and LvG's experience in managing huge super-clubs will be vital in giving United the structure that has eroded away this season.
Ferguson had Meulensteen as his coach in his latter years and do not be surprised to see van Gaal look toward the former Fulham manager again.
With a hectic, World Cup-filled summer ahead, United need to prepare for a perfect pre-season, to ready the club for one of the most important years in the team's history.
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