Manchester United: Predicting 4 Breakout Players for the 2014-2015 Season
Although calling United's 2013-2014 season anything but a disappointment would be extremely generous, United do have some positives to look to for next season.
Red Devils supporters can take some solace in the fact that, surely, they've seen the worst performance from their team in years to come, and there are talented youngsters in the ranks of the United squad with untapped potential.
With a new manager, new philosophies and many spots up for grabs, the following four players should be allowed to shine, or at least contribute.
(All stats and info via ESPNFC and Squawka)
For a player to be considered for this list they must:
Be no older than 26 years of age. If a player doesn't "break out" when they are 27 years of age, it is unlikely to happen. If their form suddenly improves, it should be considered more of a revival or rebirth.
Have started no more than 15 games. If a player has started more games than this, then they should be considered a pretty vital part of the squad already, and already have a decent amount of responsibility.
Position: Right-attacking midfield, left-attacking midfield, or center-attacking midfield
2013-2014 EPL stats:15 starts, four goals, three assists, 31 chances created
While Januzaj had a decent amount of opportunities to prove himself this past season, he should receive even more game time this time around after showing just how talented he is. Blessed with accurate crossing ability, nifty feet and sharp speed, the Belgian showed that United's best performances often came when he was part of the XI. After showing his talent, Januzaj will be expected to make strides in the next campaign, and he could certainly become a regular starter. If he continues to work hard and gain match experience, and is beefed up by the United trainers as David de Gea was as a youngster, he could soon prove to be one of the best attackers in the EPL.
2014-2015 stats EPL predictions: 25 starts, seven goals, five assists, 55 chances created
Position: Center-defensive midfield, center-attacking midfield
2013-2014 EPL stats: 12 starts, zero goals, one assist, five chances created, 2.8 tackles per game, 52 percent headed duels won
After a scintillating 2012-2013 with Everton, Fellaini was bought for a hefty £28.5 million by Manchester United, and since then he has looked lost, out of place and out of form. Once regarded as a physical force in the center of the park, Fellaini won barely more than half of his attempted headers, and often looked skittish and tentative, with Yaya Toure's dominating performance over him showcasing this perfectly. After gaining a reputation as a marauding attacking force, with 11 goals and 40 chances created for Everton, Fellaini looked devoid of creativity for United, and incapable of producing a final product, unable to score from 25 attempts.
While Fellaini was extremely poor, it is worth noting that he missed three months due to injury, that he was competing with Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, and Darren Fletcher for playing time and he never started more than two EPL games in a row. If Louis Van Gaal decides to give him a fresh start, Fellaini could greatly benefit from the potential transfer of Toni Kroos to United (Daily Mail). Just as Fernandinho allowed Yaya Toure to enjoy a 20-goal season, Kroos could offer the same sort of defensive cover (that Carrick or Fletcher couldn't) to Fellaini, allowing him to at least get on the scoresheet a couple of times in the coming season. It goes without saying that Kroos is an elite player, and Fellaini would benefit highly from partnering him in the midfield. If this transfer happens, the Belgian could make impressive performances like the one against West Ham on March 14 (WhoScored) the norm.
2014-2015 stats predictions: 22 starts, three goals, two assists, 16 chances created, 2.5 tackles per game, 55 percent headed duels won
2013-2014 EPL stats: one start, two goals, zero assists, zero chances created
Is Wilson merely the second coming of Federico Macheda, or a star in the making? By the end of the 2014-2015 season, neither will be answered, but hopefully he'll be on the track of the latter. In just one game of action all season, Wilson announced himself to the world, netting two goals on his debut vs. Hull. At the tender age of 18, Wilson already appeared to have the qualities of a productive poacher, putting away goals from close range and positioning himself well to get those opportunities. With only one game of match experience, and Danny Welbeck, Robin van Persie, and Wayne Rooney in front of him, Wilson will be relied upon far less than fellow teenager Adnan Januzaj, but could replace Javier Hernandez as a situational starter and squad player should the Mexican leave (SkySports).
2014-2015 EPL stats predictions: Six starts, four goals, one assist, five chances created
Position: Wide-left forward, wide-right forward, center-attacking midfield, left-attacking midfield
2013-2014 Championship stats (with Brighton and Hove Albion): 17 starts, four goals, three assists, 26 chances created
One of the reasons United fans should feel optimistic going into next season is the wealth of young reinforcements the Reds will have in the squad, one being Jesse Lingard. The wide man has undergone successful spells with Birmingham and Brighton in the Championship, demonstrating the ability to both finish and create for his teammates. Lingard should, and will be played less than the more matured Januzaj, but he should be played more than James Wilson, as the wide positions are much less stocked than the spots up front. Underachievers Nani and Ashley Young could be upticked by the young Englishman, as he holds an advantage in his finishing and playmaking, as well as holding a higher intrigue to fans. Wilson may end up receiving more starts, but Lingard's pace and versatility make him a potential candidate to be an impact substitute and receive more appearances.
2014-2015 EPL stats predictions: Five starts, five substitute appearances, two goals, three assists, 13 chances created