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Manchester United: Full Report Card for Every Position for August

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentSeptember 4, 2014

Manchester United: Full Report Card for Every Position for August

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    It's been a disappointing start to the season for Manchester United.

    It's also been a frustrating start to life as United manager for Louis van Gaal.

    In the four games in August, they lost at home to Swansea, drew at Sunderland, were humiliated at MK Dons and drew 0-0 at Burnley.

    It's hardly the start United fans were expecting.

    Van Gaal has had a lot of injuries to contend with and will hope the injury list begins to clear following the international break.

    But even with Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata and Angel Di Maria in his team, the Dutchman is still searching for his first win.

    That some of the players Van Gaal gave opportunities to in August—Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa, Javier Hernandez, Nick Powell and Michael Keane—have now left Old Trafford tells its own story.

    Here's a look at how the United squad have performed in the first month of the season.

     

    Feel free to use the comments section below to agree or disagree.

Goalkeeper

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    David De Gea

    David De Gea has played in all four of United's games in August, and he's one of the few players to emerge with any credit.

    He might feel he could have done better with Gylfi Sigurdsson's winner for Swansea at Old Trafford, but he was left horribly exposed during the Capital One Cup shambles against MK Dons and kept a clean sheet against Burnley.

    He's under no threat whatsoever as Van Gaal's number one.

    Grade: B

Centre-Back

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Phil Jones

    United's back three have taken a lot of criticism already this season, but Phil Jones hasn't done too much wrong. 

    Like the other centre-backs Van Gaal has used, he's struggled to come to terms with the subtle differences between playing in a back three and a back four.

    Still, there have been far more serious offenders than the 22-year-old.

    Grade: B

     

    Tyler Blackett

    Tyler Blackett hadn't made a first-team appearance before this season, but so far this season he's been a regular in Van Gaal's team.

    The 20-year-old has looked comfortable on the ball with a superb range of passing for someone so young.

    Inexperience has shown once or twice, especially against Swansea, when he returned the ball to Wilfried Bony to take a quick free-kick in the build-up to their winner.

    Grade: B

     

    Jonny Evans

    Jonny Evans missed the first two games through injury, and he put in a disastrous performance on his return against MK Dons in the Capital One Cup.

    He looked more assured against Burnley, playing on the right of the back three. He'll have to improve if he hopes to keep his place as Van Gaal's senior centre-half this season.

    Grade: C

     

    Chris Smalling

    Chris Smalling is the one centre-back who has struggled the most in the new-look back three.

    Starting in the centre against Sunderland, he looked like he lacked the confidence to stride into midfield with the ball.

    His discomfort on the ball will be a concern for Van Gaal if he's hoping to have his defenders pass out from the back.

    Grade: C

Right Wing-Back

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Antonio Valencia

    Antonio Valencia missed the first game of the season against Swansea with injury. He returned against Sunderland and created Juan Mata's goal.

    He's still learning how to play as a wing-back. It's testing both his attacking and defensive abilities. He's not been United's worst performer this season, but he's struggled to stand out.

    Grade: C

Left Wing-Back

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Ashley Young

    Ashley Young might not have still been at Old Trafford if Louis van Gaal hadn't introduced his 3-5-2 system. It has been Young's ability to adapt as a left wing-back that has kept him at United.

    But like Antonio Valencia, he's struggled to fully cope with the position's demands. He's not offered a great deal going forward and was at fault for Swansea's winner in the opening game of the season.

    Grade: C

Midfield

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    Darren Fletcher

    Darren Fletcher is a favourite among United fans. His comeback from a bowel condition that threatened to end his career is inspiring.

    But there's a feeling among the supporters that he's not found enough form to be considered first choice at United. And his performances in August have backed that up.

    Against Burnley, he was left to protect the back three on his own with Angel Di Maria and Juan Mata pushed further forward. It was a huge responsibility for a player who is still recovering his form and fitness.

    Grade: C

     

    Ander Herrera

    Ander Herrera made a promising start to his United career in the opening game of the season against Swansea, but an injury has meant that he hasn't played since.

    Van Gaal will hope he can recreate the form he showed on the tour of the United States when he makes his comeback.

    Grade: C

     

    Juan Mata

    One of the reasons Van Gaal decided to introduce his 3-5-2 at United was to get Rooney, Van Persie and Mata all playing together in their preferred positions. 

    Mata has started the games against Swansea, Sunderland and Burnley, but he's struggled to impose himself on any of them. His goal against Sunderland has been the one highlight.

    Grade: C

     

    Adnan Januzaj

    It's not yet clear where Adnan Januzaj fits into Van Gaal's plans. He came off the bench against Swansea to play as a right wing-back. In the second-half he played a right midfielder.

    Against Sunderland, he was used deeper in midfield alongside Tom Cleverley. And against Burnley he came on as No. 10 late in the game.

    Against Swansea, especially, he looked like United's best player.

    Grade: B

     

    Angel Di Maria

    It will take time for Angel Di Maria to settle into English football, but he made a bright start to his United career against Burnley.

    He was taken off in the second period as he began to tire. But the signs were positive for United's British-record buy.

    Grade: B

     

    Anderson 

    Anderson wasn't expected to play for United again after being sent on loan to Fiorentina at the end of last season.

    But back at Old Trafford, he's played against MK Dons and Burnley under Van Gaal. He's not done anything to suggest he should be back in the first team on a regular basis, but he might benefit from a lack of other options.

    Grade: C

Strikers

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    Wayne Rooney

    Wayne Rooney was given the perfect boost ahead of the new season when Van Gaal made him club captain, but the gesture hasn't inspired particularly good performances.

    His goal against Swansea has been the highlight of his season so far. In the two games since, against Sunderland and Burnley, the England striker has barely had a kick.

    Grade: C

     

    Robin van Persie

    Robin van Persie missed the opening game of the season against Swansea as he tried to recover his match fitness. 

    He played against Sunderland and Burnley but looked short of his usual sharpness in both games. The Dutchman is yet to score or complete 90 minutes.

    Grade: C

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