It was revealed at the beginning of this week that Manchester United are targeting a third-placed finish for this Premier League campaign. If achieved, this would bring back Champions League football to Old Trafford and, in doing so, satisfy the wishes of most fans for the year. However, some fans appear to get caught up in a little thing I like to call ‘FIFA football’ and believe that United should have bought another 4 world class defenders and Cristiano Ronaldo as a direct swap for Nani in the transfer window and then we would go on to win the league by 27 points. The question I’d like to ask is: how soon should fans expect success from this new-look Manchester United side?
When you take into account the poor start United have had, the recurring injury problems that United face and allowing Van Gaal and the new signings to gel and adapt to the Premier League, a third-placed finish would be a great achievement for this season. Yes, there is a valid argument that a club with the resources that Manchester United possess should be challenging for the title every season but one should be realistic with such claims. It is highly unlikely that a side that finished 7th and who struggled against the big sides last year could instantly raise the level of performance to that of a title contender. A period of time, I refuse to use the ‘T’ word that became so overused under Moyes, is required for the players to become acquired to the Van Gaal system, his philosophy and to gel together.
Louis Van Gaal has built a star-studded team and in doing so, will have drastically raised expectations from the fans that this United team could challenge for the Premier League. Even Van Gaal has stated in the past that his aim for the 3 years is to achieve Champions League football in the first season, win the Premier League in the second and win the Champions League in the third. This statement was made weeks before the transfer window had closed. After the signings of Di Maria, Falcao, Blind, Rojo, Herrera and Shaw along with the promises of more spending in the coming transfer windows, these aims suddenly hold some element of reality in them. These are the breed of player that Manchester United needs to buy in order to succeed at the highest level.
Expectations are set to rise further if United defeat QPR at Old Trafford tomorrow. But let’s be serious and no disrespect at all to QPR as they obtain some great players, the majority of teams in the top half of the league would expect to win at home to QPR. The main improvement that I am looking for is in United’s tempo, creation, flair and hopefully, a steadier defence. A victory and a clean sheet would go a long way in boosting confidence and team morale. I don’t think many fans are expecting United to instantly be able to zip it around and bamboozle the defence like the strike force of Berbatov, Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo could a few years ago, but there is no doubt that the calibre of players United now have in attacking positions certainly have the ability to once they click.
Third place would be a great platform to build on in the coming years. It is now essential to invest in the transfer market in the modern game and I’m sure that if United are on the way to achieving Champions League football, the appropriate funds will be there to bring more talent and flair to Old Trafford in the coming years and there is no doubt that United will challenge for both domestic and European trophies once again.