Disappointing Summer in Danger of Deflating Cautious Optimism at Man United

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentAugust 11, 2014

DENVER, CO - JULY 26: Manager Louis van Gaal walks on the pitch before a game against AS Roma during an International Champions Cup match at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on July 26, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Manchester United defeated AS Roma 3-2. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

On the pitch, Louis van Gaal couldn't have asked for a better start to his reign as Manchester United manager.

It's easy to read too much into pre-season results. But it's better to win games against L.A. Galaxy, Roma, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Liverpool than lose them.

Of all the new faces in the Premier League this season, Van Gaal has the potential to make the biggest impact.

His appointment has raised expectations at Old Trafford. Some fans are now looking for more than just a top-four finish.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 17:  Louis van Gaal appears at a press conference with Sir Bobby Charlton as he is unveiled as the new Manchester United manager at Old Trafford on July 17, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

If nothing else, the Dutchman's arrival has lifted the mood after a dismal season under David Moyes.

But Van Gaal can't do it all on his own. And while he'll back himself to get the best out of the players he's inherited, the squad is still weak in key areas.

Panic grew among supporters last summer during what was a botched transfer window. And with only 20 days to go this time, they're starting to get anxious again.

United have spent nearly £60 million on Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw. But they desperately need another centre-half to fill the void left by Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - AUGUST 04:  Jordon Ibe #33 of Liverpool under pressure from Luke Shaw #28 of Manchester United of the Guinness International Champions Cup 2014 Final at Sun Life Stadium on August 4, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Tro
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

They need another central midfielder, too. And Van Gaal has said he wants a winger.

But those aren't the final pieces of the puzzle. It's the minimum requirement. 

To head into a new season hoping to play three at the back with only three centre-halves—Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling—could be disastrous.

With Michael Carrick ruled out until October with an ankle injury, the midfield is overly reliant on Darren Fletcher, who is still working his way back to full fitness after recovering from a serious bowel condition.

With no Champions League football, United are keen to trim their squad before September 1. But there is a pressing need to add more quality.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - AUGUST 04:  (L) Darren Fletcher #24 of Manchester United and (R) Wayne Rooney #10 of Manchester United lift the winners trophy following their 3-1  victory over Liverpool in the Guinness International Champions Cup 2014 Final at Sun Li
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

United have three weeks to make sure the wave of optimism created by Van Gaal's arrival isn't undermined by another disappointing transfer window.

If they line up against QPR at Old Trafford on September 14 without further additions, there will be some fans fearing another tough season.

After Van Gaal's success at the World Cup, you can argue that, so far, Van Gaal has been the signing of the summer.

But he can't turn around United's fortunes by himself. Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has 20 days to give the new boss some help.

If it doesn't happen, the raised expectations that greeted Van Gaal's arrival will need to be re-evaluated.