When Louis van Gaal came to Old Trafford, fresh from his highly successful third-place finish with Netherlands at the World Cup, he boldly proclaimed that he needed all of three months to get Manchester United reaping the benefits of his system. Well, that three month deadline van Gaal had set for himself is approaching, and it’s becoming clear that it’ll take a little longer before he turns United into a legitimate championship contender.
Van Gaal himself admitted recently that making such a claim was “stupid.” United, who were coming off their worst Premier League finish ever last season, had some very sizeable holes in their squad coming into the season, most glaringly in defense in the center of midfield. And while they did improve their squad by bringing in some highly-talented players, van Gaal’s timetable has been altered because of some unexpected speed bumps along the way.
Injuries have been the main culprit, especially to ManU’s defense. United’s continued shakiness at the back has been largely due to the fact that they’ve barely been able to field an unchanged unit of defenders for more than two games in a row. Their three most experienced central defenders – Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones – have all missed significant time, while Michael Carrick, their rock-solid defensive midfielder, has yet to feature this season.
Going forward, though, United still possesses tremendous quality. Angel di Maria has been an immediate hit at Old Trafford, as has Ander Herrera, to a lesser extent. And while Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney may not be at the peak of their powers anymore, Falcao is still in his prime and is ready to step in at any time. Their abundance of talent up front is a major reason why United still have favorable odds to win the league title despite their uneven performances.
The key for United in the latter stages of the season will be to get everyone fit and healthy. Van Gaal’s three month window will have long passed by the time the team is back to something resembling healthy, but he’s still got time to make his first season at Old Trafford a big success.