Thanks to a Liverpool side incapable of competing consistently, Manchester United are on their way back to Champions League football, which is arguably where they belong every season. Under Louis van Gaal, the Trafford-based football giant have achieved what would be described as a minimum league table finish. Barring any great surprises, the club are likely to end up in the group stages of Europe’s elite competition and some may argue that getting passed their group and entering the last 16 is one of the inevitable truths of next season.
A lot has been made of Sir Alex Feguson’s departure and the quick fall from grace following the legend’s retirement. United have always been known for risky, exciting and rather unconventional football. Old Trafford had never been a safe place for those with risky blood-sugar levels or those with faint hearts. Despite Fergie’s football of unconventional excitement and sometimes disappointing outcomes – the numerous early Champions League exits spring to mind – the supporters could not have been served a type of football more suited to the Theatre of Dreams.
Obviously, times have changed and the past is the past. At this stage, for the benefit of the football club, there is no need to reminisce. One must move on and thus, talk of David Moyes’ time at the helm should be avoided. However, with the club now in the hands of legendary tactician LVG, the question is as to whether the United faithful are truly ready for an arguably more intelligent type of football. As many have probably argued, some of United’s passing game looks like an homage to Pep’s Barcelona team that was one of Europe’s most successful. Nevertheless, this type of football seems to have been introduced at Old Trafford during a time when successful tactics seem to have moved on and elsewhere. To be precise, success has befriended Luis Enrique’s football that is the most interesting mix of ball retention and a more direct passage to the opposing goal.
With van Gaal controlling the club’s transfer activity and its playing philosophy, the main question for next season will be as to whether excitement will return to Old Trafford to replace heavily brain-based possession football. With the addition of Memphis Depay, the focus seems to lean towards excitement; this would help the Theatre of Dreams return to dreaming football rather than thinking it. This would arguably silence the ‘attack, attack, attack’ chants coming from Stretford End, as that would be exactly what LVG plans to serve.
Manchester awaits 2015/16 in excitement and the United faithful hope that wings will be run down and that goals will be scored from exhilarating attacks.