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3 Targets for Manchester United to Hit in 2016

Manchester United's Dutch manager Louis van Gaal (C) and Manchester United's Welsh assistant manager Ryan Giggs (centre right) prepare to watch the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on January 2, 2016. Manchester United won the game 2-1. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF

RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / AFP / OLI SCARFF        (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
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Paul AnsorgeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2016

At the beginning of the 2015/16 season, the target for Louis van Gaal and Manchester United should have been clear: improvement over the season before.

Now, halfway through the current campaign, the waters have been muddied by an awful run of form that has left the Red Devils three points behind fourth place and nine points off the top.

So, what do they need to do in 2016? Of course, it is tempting to just set "win all the trophies and sign Lionel Messi" as targets, but as anyone who has ever had targets set for them in an office environment will know, it is important that targets are achievable.

Martial and Rooney need more to celebrate in 2016
Martial and Rooney need more to celebrate in 2016Alex Livesey/Getty Images

With that in mind, let's take a look at three things that Van Gaal, Ed Woodward and their respective teams should be able to achieve in the year ahead.

 

Win some silverware

This target will reach the point of genuine urgency in the 2016/17 season, but winning either the Premier League, FA Cup or Europa League in the course of this calendar year would really help a lot.

The last piece of proper silverware won by United—and for the purposes of this conversation, the Community shield is excluded from consideration—was the league title in 2013.

Thus, if nothing is won this year, that will make the gap four years. The last time United went that many years without any silverware at all was during the five-year gap between the FA Cup wins in 1985 and 1990.

The FA Cup Final of 1990, Sir Alex Ferguson's first United trophy
The FA Cup Final of 1990, Sir Alex Ferguson's first United trophyDavid Cannon/Getty Images

Failure to win silverware of any kind this season will further enhance the sense of United as a club on the slide. It is a massive task. The Europa League is packed with teams of high quality and cup competitions rely on a dollop of good fortune to win.

Nothing about the first half of the season has made United look like contenders for the league title, and yet the target remains. For all the dramatic slump that has happened post-Sir Alex Ferguson, this is still Manchester United and they are supposed to win things. This is a tough ask, but it is achievable and should be the standard.

 

Make a sensible plan for the summer transfer window

In summer 2014, United's transfer dealings were confusing. Daley Blind arrived late in the window when his transfer could presumably have been arranged sooner, making it look as if he was a back-up option. Radamel Falcao's last-minute arrival on loan seemed strange given how well-stocked United were with centre-forwards at the time.

Angel Di Maria's signing seemed a coup, though, of course, that did not work out. There was a relative lack of investment in the centre of midfield.

Ed Woodward watching United
Ed Woodward watching UnitedJon Super/Associated Press

In 2015, it seemed a little more targeted and a little better organised in terms of incoming players at least. Several of United's deals were done before the pre-season tour, and for a while, there was a sense of coherence.

However, the end of the window saw a spurt of outgoings that appeared to leave the squad short of attacking options. The difficulty the Red Devils have found with goals was relatively predictable given that.

Thus 2016 should have a clear plan. Unless the superstar level talents are truly available, United should focus their efforts on attainable deals in areas where the squad needs strengthening and avoid the need for last-minute manoeuvres.

 

Up the entertainment value

Adidas' chief executive Herbert Hainer, speaking to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung (h/t the Guardian), said: "Business with Man United is going very well, we sell more shirts than expected. We are satisfied...even if the current playing style of Man United is not exactly what we want to see."

Perhaps Woodward will be minded to take Hainer's frustrations more seriously than he has done United fans'. The style of football has been a problem at Old Trafford all season long, and the majority of the club's home games have been difficult to watch.

There was some improvement in the second half against Swansea City on Saturday, but, of course, Van Gaal said he preferred the first half, per the Independent, which had been a soporific, frustrating and difficult-to-watch affair in keeping with the rest of the season.

Making United more fun should, in fact, be the primary goal of 2016 because the current approach is alienating fans and apparently major sponsors alike.

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