Here we are 35 games into the 2015/2016 Barclays Premier League season and the fairy-tale story that is Leicester City has every sports fan and his dogs’ tongues wagging.
With all the euphoria of a team with 5000/1 odds of winning the title it becomes even more important that our beloved Red Devils come back stronger than ever next season as teams in the league evidently continue to get stronger and tougher with every passing campaign.
Will we ever experience the dominance of the ’90s and early 2000s again?
With the FA Cup final rearing its head over the horizon we potentially have some silverware to fill our dry cabinet to look forward to.
A final win over Crystal Palace would mark a fantastic achievement considering that we haven’t won the trophy since 2004, but would victory at Wembley really signify a successful campaign for LVG and his team?
Will bringing the grand old trophy back to Old Trafford truly justify that Van Gaal finishes the remaining year on his contract?
As much as I would love to see no-nonsense Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho take to the hot seat at Old Trafford and ruffle a few feathers, there have actually been some positives from the season at the club.
Pros and cons you could say.
Defensively we haven’t been too shabby.
We are second best defensively in the EPL (behind Spurs) with 31 goals conceded in 35 league matches at a goal ratio of 0.89 per match (17 clean sheets).
The 17 clean sheets are joint best with Arsenal, mostly due to us having a certain Spaniard between the sticks.
Much to my surprise Chris (or is it Mike?) Smalling and Daley Blind have actually built a solid partnership and the former is seemingly growing into the boots left behind by Vidic and Ferdinand.
The players didn’t vote him Players’ Player of the Year on Tuesday night for nothing.
With over 50 appearances for the Reds this season (mostly alongside the Dutchman) the 26-year-old has certainly shown positional acumen, leadership qualities (when Rooney and Carrick have been unavailable) and has just been physically strong.
Perhaps if it weren’t for Luke Shaw’s injury woes our defensive structures could have been even more impressive this season.
Defense hasn’t really been the best form of attack
As tremendous as our defensive success has been our attack pretty much saw as much action as a guy in a knitted Christmas jersey at Matric Vac.
Van Gaal’s possession (and “Plan B” route one ball to Fellaini) football simply didn’t bear fruit up front.
Our goal statistics make for depressing reading.
We’ve only scored a paltry return of 43 goals this term at an average goal to game ratio of 1.23.
It’s pitiful for a team like Manchester United.
We’re behind Bournemouth for Pete’s sake!
Is playing our talisman on the left wing really going to get the 20 to 30-plus goals per season we desperately desire?
Thank the Pope for the emergence of Marcus Rashford (if it weren’t for an injury to Martial) or we could have seriously been in the proverbial horse excrement.
The kid from Manchester has been a breath of fresh air and has showed the balls for a big game or two.
Surely a major positive going forward.
That leads me to my next pro:
Our academy is still tops
Sure, it hasn’t been the class of ’92, but there are some real gems emerging from the United development structures.
Warren Joyce’s u-21s claimed the Premier League title with two games to spare recently and among the team were a number of players who have featured in the senior side this season including Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Paddy McNair, Donald Love, Andreas Pereira and Guillermo Varela.
Add Rashford, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Jesse Lingard to the mix and we have a great deal of exciting youthful exuberance coming through.
Oh, and don’t forget James Wilson currently on loan at Brighton, who has netted five times for the Championship club this season, including an important equaliser in Monday night’s 1-1 draw with Derby County.
The big question: How long will it take for them to grow into world beaters?
Also, academy success doesn’t always lead to greater first team fortunes.
We let them go
Our academy has produced a conveyor belt of players now plying their trade in the top divisions of English football.
Danny Drinkwater and Danny Simpson of Leicester City both emerged from our ranks.
Maybe we should try to hold on to our young guns for just a little bit longer and see what they’ve got before flogging millions on players who don’t truly value the badge like Di Maria.
We’ve got the best goalkeeper in all the world
For a third season in succession the Spaniard has been our Player of the Year.
As incredible as he is, for a keeper to be taking the Sir Matt Busby Award every year triggers more worrisome alarm bells in my mind.
What do we do when they get the paperwork right
Let’s not joke here.
Madrid will come knocking again and then poof, gone…
Where to next?
Will we continue to be strong at the back with some new shot-stopper between the poles or will we have to rely on Sergio Romero?
I simply cannot live with another Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi (gosh, remember him?) or Roy Carroll donning the gloves.
Let’s hope the Real Madrid administrators fail again!
None of our perennial rivals won the league
Arsenal, City, Pool, Chelsea all have to go back to the drawing board, too.
We might still have LVG
Another season of Van Gaal is like another season of Big Brother Africa.
Boring, daunting, discouraging and scary.
Klopp seems to be getting somewhere with Liverpool and Chelsea and City both welcome new faces next season.
How absolutely thrilling to know that King Louis could still be sitting in the stands come August (note the sarcasm).
Without Champions League football he simply has to get on his bike and say sayonara.
We want that FA Cup, but we don’t want LVG.
Get to it now, Woodward!