Rant writers on the year ahead

, , and January 1, 2015 Tags: , , Reads 24 comments
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Say goodbye to 2014. It was a year that started horribly for Manchester United with a home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and ended with the club on the up, albeit with a draw against the same opposition. Hello, then, to 2015: a year in which United will, well, we’re not quite sure… but United Rant’s writers peaked into the crystal ball and had a guess…

In the end United will be short – well short – of the title contenders this season, although the improvement in results has been really good since November. By May United might be 10 points adrift of the title winners, which will probably be Chelsea, although José Mourinho’s side could suffer for lack of squad depth.

It’s been so long since United put together a decent FA Cup run. Surely this is the year for United to have a real crack at it, although the loss to MK Dons demonstrates that United’s trip to Yeovil Town next week is going to be no easy ride.

The summer market is critical, although it’s hard to see the Glazers signing off on another £150 million spend. That said few predicted last summer’s splurge either. Louis van Gaal could really do with a couple of high-quality defenders: a right-back as cover or replacement for the perennially injured Rafael da Silva, and an experienced central defender who is not prone to injury!

United could do with another combative midfielder. Marouane Fellaini was supposed to be it, but he’ll never be good enough at Champions League level. Kevin Strootman is the obvious name, of course, although Arturo Vidal would be the ‘gold-medal’ level signing. Then there’s the question of what happens with Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie. It’s hard to see both at the club beyond the summer.

There will be some departures too. None of United’s defenders, bar Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo, are safe. Neither is Antonio Valencia or, sadly, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata. It’ll be a very bleak day if David de Gea leaves for Real Madrid, but it’s not unlikely.

In the end Van Gaal’s philosophy will be attacking, possession-based football in which United dominate matches. The Dutchman simply doesn’t have the personnel for it to be fully implemented just yet. If that’s still the case after next summer the club will have let Van Gaal down.

United will push City and Chelsea much harder for the title in 2015/15. Expect United to be very close to the top by this time next year.

Second half of the season XI: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Herrera, Carrick, Di Maria; Mata; Falcao, Rooney
Next season’s XI: De Gea; Aurier, Jones, Hummels, Shaw; Herrera, Vidal; Di Maria, Mata, Januzaj; Falcao

By May 2015 United will probably have secured third spot. Even though United has overtaken some pretty serious point differences in the second half of the season over the years the team will finish a dozen points behind City and Chelsea. A nice FA Cup run is overdue and it would be great to win it and break a good record for a change.

Next summer’s transfer market will bring one or two solid defenders. If the Dutchman delivers results this season United won’t return to Glazeronomics just yet, even though, sadly, it looks inevitable in the long run. There won’t be another Angel Di Maria/Radamel Falcao “holy s**t, that’s actually happening!” moment this summer, but it’s always welcome.

Some players will leave too and that’s looooong overdue. It’s not good to call United’s players ‘dead wood,’ but, unfortunately, that’s what some of them have become. Let’s hope Van Gaal shows strength of character and good judgement here. Whether David De Gea stays is more important though. Don’t break our hearts, Dave. Please, pretty please? It would even be worth paying Anderson to stay and be the fool to your king. Perhaps that was the plan all along!

In 2015 we will discover what Van Gaal’s philosophy really is… or not. The Dutchman can be quite pragmatic if necessary. Maybe there’s no philosophy as such; just pragmatism and some common sense. The greatest trick that our Devil has ever pulled was to convince everyone that the philosophy exists. The hope is that Van Gaal sorts out the defence – the transfer window should help – sticks with a specific formation, and gets some luck with injuries. And then “let it flyyyy.”

After all that next season United will finally become a title contender again – at least, that’s the plan. Of course, football can be cruel sometimes. As Liverpool demonstrated ‘up’ is not the only way after a good season. Fans should remain wary until the league is United’s again. It’s hard to believe that it has been only been two seasons since the last title, but so far Van Gaal looks like a man who can bring the “not arrogant, just better” attitude back. Here’s to that!

Second half of the season XI: De Gea; Carrick, Jones, Rojo; Rafael , Blind, Herrera, Young; ;Di Maria; Falcao, Rooney
Next season’s XI: De Gea; Rafael, Hummels, Jones, Shaw; Bale, Blind, Herrera, Di Maria; Rooney, Falcao

United will have made the Champions League by the end of the season. City will probably win the Premier League after fatigue catches up with Chelsea given the Londoners’ lack of rotation so far. The winter transfer window might bring United a solid right-back, which may help a push for the title, though probably not enough. United has produced in big games this season and other ‘big’ clubs are either in a free fall or still in Europe. Van Gaal has historically done well in cup competitions and an FA Cup victory is definitely possible this season.

Next summer’s transfer market will bring a classy right-back and a world-class winger. All that Gareth Bale talk is indicative of something and Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus is also available. Herrera may end up in jail and Fellaini is no long-term option – expect Van Gaal’s golden boy Kevin Strootman to come to Old Trafford. Despite popular opinion a new central defender is not priority next summer. United will defend with organisation and not personnel and there are few established defenders to suit van Gaal’s high line anyway.

Anderson and probably Chris Smalling will leave the club – the Brazilian’s contract is up anyway. Jonny Evans will probably survive given his ‘left-footedness.’ Up front Ramadel Falcao will leave – James Wilson is promising. United will have to cut back what has become one of the biggest wage bills in Europe to clear for new arrivals. Falcao simply hasn’t performed. Antonio Valencia will be free to leave as well, though his high wages will be a stumbling block. Ashley Young will probably survive since he can fill in at any position on either flank.

In the next year Van Gaal’s philosophy will emerge and it’ll look something like Bayern Munich’s when he was manager there: a 4-2-3-1 with a focus on the flanks. It is indicative that Van Gaal has heavily relied on width despite playing winger-less systems, with Young and Valencia used as wing-backs. Wayne Rooney is very much like Thomas Muller. The German isn’t all that gifted technically. Van Gaal may even start playing a Bayern style 4-2-3-1 this season if Adnan Januzaj can find some form.

Next season United will win the Premier League. There will be no screwing about when the 2015/16 season begins. That extra 10 points in first 10 games of 2015/16 will bring the trophy back to Old Trafford. United probably won’t have the defence to hold off Barcelona or Real Madrid, but a new world-class winger may see the Reds sneak into semi-finals of the Champions League.

Counterattacking is in vogue and van Gaal is one of ‘counter-counter’ pioneers. Van Gaal will certainly relish the challenge.

Second half of this season XI: De Gea; Coleman, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Blind, Fellaini; Januzaj, Rooney, Di Maria; Van Persie
Next season’s XI: De Gea; Coleman, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Strootman, Blind; Januzaj, Rooney, Di Maria; Van Persie

United will finish the season, probably, in third place. Maybe second. As Ed said on the podcast last week, expectations have been reset and finishing fourth from here would be kind of disappointing. We’ll have seen a number of much better performances, and won the derby at Old Trafford. The FA Cup tie with Yeovil is slightly worrying – we might lose in the third round!

Next summer’s transfer market will be a slight anti-climax after last season’s. There won’t be a marquee signing to rival Di Maria or Falcao, but United will add sensibly in defence and midfield. Right-back is the position that most needs to be addressed with Rafael injured all the time. At least the injured centre backs have cover.

Some will leave too, including, sadly, Falcao. I have rarely wanted a player to work out as much as Falcao at United, but it seems not to going that way. He’s got four months to save the dream. One of Smalling, Phil Jones or Jonny Evans will leave — each good enough for United, none fit enough for United.

In 2015 we will discover what Van Gaal’s philosophy really is … and it’s that Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. Grinning from ear to ear when lighting the tree, giving the players the day off on Christmas, handing out presents. He loves it. Seriously though, his philosophy has changed over the years, and the best short hand for where it currently sits is something along the lines of ‘play the best, most attractive, football you can with the players at your disposal.’

After all that, next season, United will win the league. AGAIN!

Second half of this season XI: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Herrera, Carrick, Di Maria; Rooney; Falcao, Van Persie
Next season’s XI: De Gea; Rafael, Godin, Jones, Shaw; Strootman, Herrera, Rooney; Di Maria, Falcao, Bale


Red - January 1, 2015 Reply

Read your part Ed, U think keeping Mata and/or Herrera will be vital to keep Dave at United? Or at least have Spanish players?

thorsten^^evil kagawa - January 1, 2015 Reply

Paul, you`re suprising me. First you say that Falcao will leave and then you give us the 15/16 XI with Falcao??????

ForeverRed - January 1, 2015 Reply

Everyone’s worried about the defence, but the glaring issue to me is the lack of pace and power though the middle. In fact, even worse, it’s the lack of anything of note in the middle! It’s like we’re playing a 5-1-4. Despite the shaky defence, it’s the utter predictably and lack of pace/penetration, especially away from home, that is our biggest problem. We’re not shipping goals anymore but we are very easy to defend against. We cannot accommodate Mata, Rooney, RvP and Falcao with just Carrick behind. Indeed, Van Gaal talks about our lack of balance but then exacerbates it through his selections/formations. If we can’t get Herrera to fill this key role (I remain hopeful) we have to go all out in the next 2 transfer windows to truly address the midfield issue once and for all.

subterranean steve - January 2, 2015 Reply


subterranean steve - January 2, 2015 Reply

Currently when everyone’s fit it’s,

De Gea Raphael Jones Rojo Shaw Carrick Januzaj Herrera Di Maria Rooney Falcao.

For the rest of this season, United needs more pace, especially away from home. Di Maria, Januzaj and Wilson are the ones.

Next season, more opportunities for McNair and Wilson.

Summer signings Bale Vidal Hummels Best Law Charlton

dentondavey - January 2, 2015 Reply

“Summer signings…… Best Law Charlton”

If you’re going to do nostalgia then how about Keane, Robson and Vidic !

dentondavey - January 2, 2015 Reply

Otherwise, Strootman and Godin plus an injury-free ticket.

dentondavey - January 2, 2015 Reply

A healthy Javi Martinez wouldn’t be a bad shout. But, of course, he’s no longer “injury-free” so he would fit in with the other sick-notes and get the chance to spend more time learning English.

Subterranean Steve - January 2, 2015 Reply


Dave Best, Johnny Law and Godfrey Charlton are all under thirty and still playing.

Dayus D red - January 2, 2015 Reply

Is this article suppose to be a new year joke? Next season IX without Rooney? Was expecting a well articulated article or better still a review of Stoke match. Sorry to say but this is a waste of space.

Ed - January 2, 2015 Reply

Why the need for snarky insults, Dayus? Over the months you have given the impression of disliking the writing on Rant or, worse, believing your opinions above it. I do wonder why you keep coming back if that’s the case.

Why would you expect a review of the Stoke game in a look at the year ahead. Clue’s in the title. I mean, literally, in the title.

As for Rooney, personally I suspect LVG will move to a 4-2-3-1 or some variant involving one central striker. Be interesting to see where or if Rooney fits into that. Disagree if you like, but as for your response… see line one of this comment. You can stick your condescension where it belongs.

Julian - January 3, 2015 Reply

Ed most of your comments are sensible but when it comes to Rooney you have an innate bias which is unbecoming and rather silly. LvGs side will be built around his captain for the next few seasons. We’ve already seen Rooney grow as a person with the new responsibility and we will see him grow as a player – albeit in a different role.

Ed - January 3, 2015 Reply

Julian – its absolutely not for you to judge whether my opinion is unbecoming or otherwise. It’s one held by many United supporters, but even if it wasn’t I don’t need your permission to hold it and definitely not to write it.

Dayus D red - January 2, 2015 Reply

@Ed. “over the months you have given the impression of disliking the writing on Rant or, worse believing your opinion is above it”. This not totally correct. Granted i have had cause to disagree with some of your writings, i have also commended you many times. If my use of “waste of space” is offensive to you, i apologise but i just feel most of the postulations looking ahead into 2015 are not well reseached.

subterranean steve - January 3, 2015 Reply

Whatever formation Van Gaal decides upon in 2015, I do hope he gets the attacking part right. For all the defensive concerns amidst some shambolic moments at the back this season, the results show that points have been dropped because of a lack of goals (Leicester away excepted).

In seventeen of United’s twenty league games, they have conceded a maximum of one goal. So if the much vaunted attack of Van Persie, Falcao, Di Maria, Rooney, Mata and co. had managed to score, between them, a mere two goals in each of those games, United would be way out on top with fifty three points, eleven ahead of Chelsea and City.

That’s all hypothetical of course, but United’s attack has been underperforming for most of the season, especially away from home as the recent results at Villa, Spurs and Stoke show. In part it’s been poor finishing and in part a lack of creativity and penetration. That will need to be sorted if United is to get back to the top of the table.

redzebs - January 3, 2015 Reply

Rooneys been our best player bar DDG and club captain, there’s no way he’ll go, if its for a system then play him as the striker which he has proven he can do superbly and tell Falcao to fack aff and lie back on Monaco’s injury table, as him and RVP are more likely to get crocked than Rooney who is a better player in my opinion than them both, if he wasn’t scouse and hadnt tried to leave previously, people would be singing his praises every week.

Noël Christmas - January 3, 2015 Reply

I love how so many predicted no marquee signings in the summer, apart from GARRETH BALE!! 🙂

j - January 3, 2015 Reply

Im fckn drunk in the airport lax

j - January 3, 2015 Reply

I love Manchester United. But buzzing in LAX because I can. Thank you LVG

Ed - January 3, 2015 Reply

Good stuff “j”

j - January 3, 2015 Reply

Thanks Paul your cool

Tom CanTheyScore - January 3, 2015 Reply

holy smokes – how did you get Paul to write? What a coup!

M U F C - January 3, 2015 Reply

Jones in every lineup just unbelievable as He’s unable to Pass from Defense to Mid/Attack @datarant @utdrantcast @worldisred

Kevin - January 3, 2015 Reply

Love the RantCast and this website.

Paul — an element of your post gives me cognitive dissonance: you write “no marquee signings”, then you have Bale in the line up? Am I not getting a joke?

Surely the Bale rumors are the rag sheets at play?

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