10 Concerns for Louis van Gaal Ahead of New Premier League Season

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentAugust 12, 2014

10 Concerns for Louis van Gaal Ahead of New Premier League Season

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    New Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has enjoyed a successful pre-season on the pitch this summer.

    They won all five games on their tour of America, but it's not all been plain sailing.

    Just five days away from the start of the new Premier League season, the Dutchman has a number of issues to contend with.

    Chief among them is a lack of new arrivals with the transfer window due to shut in a little over three weeks.

    Here's a list of 10 concerns for Van Gaal as the new season approaches.

    Use the comments section below to add your own.

Lack of Transfer Activity

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    United have added Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw to their squad this summer, but both were confirmed even before Van Gaal was presented as the new boss.

    He's in need of another central defender—especially if he wants to play three at the back next season—and another midfielder.

    United have already missed out on Thomas Vermaelen, who joined Barcelona this week, and time is running out.

The System

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    Van Gaal has given notice of his intention to play a 5-3-2 next season. He used it in every game of the United States tour.

    But he's also admitted it will take time for his players to fully understand the new way of playing.

    United have been given games against Swansea, Burnley, Sunderland, QPR, Leicester and West Ham to start the new season.

    It's a chance to get off to a flying start, but if they don't, Van Gaal could find himself under pressure very quickly.

The Defence

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    If the pre-season games against the LA Galaxy, Roma, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Liverpool are anything to go by, Van Gaal wants to play with a three-man defence next season.

    But that's going to put a huge strain on his only three first-team centre-halves—Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.

    And if no one else comes in, he'll have to pray Evans, Jones and Smalling can stay fit for the majority of the season.

The Midfield

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    United are short of numbers at the back, and Van Gaal has a similar issue in midfield.

    Michael Carrick has been ruled out until October after undergoing ankle surgery.

    That leaves just Herrera, who is starting his first season in English football, Darren Fletcher, who is still recovering from a serious bowel condition, Tom Cleverley, who had a miserable season under David Moyes and Marouane Fellaini, whose future is far from certain.

    It's not the midfield of a title-challenging side.

Luke Shaw

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    United paid Southampton £27 million for Luke Shaw in the hope he would be first choice next season. 

    It's the reason they let Patrice Evra join Juventus. But on the tour of the United States, Van Gaal raised concerns about the 19-year-old's fitness.

    It meant Ashley Young started at left wing-back against Liverpool in the final of the International Champions Cup in Miami.

    Shaw has been earmarked to fill the role of the left next season, but he needs to prove his fitness first.

Reliance on Robin van Persie

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    United kept Robin van Persie fit in his first season at Old Trafford. He played in every game in the Premier League, scoring 26 goals as United won the title.

    But last season it was a different story.

    He played just 21 times in the league after a knee injury ruled him out of the second half of the season. 

    The 31-year-old has had a hectic summer after leading the Netherlands to the World Cup semi-finals. It's meant he's missed most of United's pre-season, and there's no guarantee he'll be ready in time to face Swansea on August 16.

    Van Gaal will need him to stay available if United are to be successful.

Improvement of Rivals

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    Not only have United struggled to improve their squad this summer, their main rivals have all strengthened.

    Manchester City have added Eliaquim Mangala, Bacary Sagna, Fernando, Willy Caballero and Frank Lampard. Chelsea have signed Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, among others.

    Liverpool have lost Luis Suarez but have signed seven to fill the void. Arsenal have captured Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona.

    United have spent nearly £60 million on Herrera and Shaw, but it doesn't really match up to what the others have done in the transfer market.

Balance of the Squad

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    Van Gaal has complained before that the balance of the squad he inherited from David Moyes isn't right.

    He has plenty of attacking players, including Juan Mata, Shinji Kagawa, Adnan Januzaj, Wayne Rooney, Van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez.

    But he's short in defence and in midfield. 

    And with the transfer deadline fast approaching, the Dutchman is running out of time to remedy it.

Getting Rid of the Rest

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    Van Gaal has taken the time to get to know his players, but with no European football this season, United are keen to trim their squad.

    Alex Buttner, Bebe, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra and Federico Macheda have already gone.

    But there are still question marks over Anderson, Nani, Fellaini, Kagawa and Hernandez.

    It's important United bring in some new faces before the deadline, but it's just as vital that the players with no future at Old Trafford are shipped out before the window closes.

Marouane Fellaini

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    Van Gaal has a decision to make about Fellaini.

    He doesn't seem the type of player who fits into the Dutchman's system. But so short of midfielders, the new manager might not feel comfortable letting the Belgian go.

    United would get nothing like the £27.5 million they paid Everton should they decide to cut him loose.

    But it's a big decision, unless they can find someone to replace him.