In what has proven to be a tumultuous season for Manchester United, there have been many ups and downs along the way. Since replacing the irreplaceable in Sir Alex Ferguson, it was left to the Scot David Moyes to take the reins at Old Trafford. However, this was the impossible job and he was ridiculed for his negative style of play.
Meanwhile, the derision became so bad that supporters clubbed together in order to buy a banner which flew over United's ground. It was entitled "wrong one Moyes out" and took to the skies before the home fixture against Aston Villa in 2014. Being the managerial merry go round that it is, the former Everton boss was soon shown the door after only nine months in charge. In stepped experienced coach Louis Van Gaal. Having taken the Dutch to a third place finish at last year's World Cup, his credentials are second to none. This includes managing at the highest level for not only Barcelona but Bayern Munich. In addition to this the Dutchman won the UEFA Champions League with Ajax back in 1996.
His inception into the Premier League was a swift one where United lost to Swansea on the first day of the current season. His philosophy and ethos was going to take some time to bed in as the Reds struggled for the first few months. This was largely in part down to unattractive football and a 3-5-2 formation which left many fans with red faces quite literally.
This was not the Manchester United way as fans started to chant "attack, attack, attack" more often. However, Van Gaal has been grinding out several results including a 1-1 draw with Chelsea and in the last month his plan is beginning to come to fruition. Six successive wins, most notably against Liverpool was only ended by a 1-0 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. But what are some of the main reasons why Manchester United will challenge for the title next season?
For the time being, at least the powers that be at Old Trafford will not be getting rid of the main man. Of course, this does not refer to Wayne Rooney but Van Gaal as he will have chance to bed into the way of the Premier League. In spite of the fact that United are on course for a top four finish, there needs to be some form of continuity. Van Gaal will be given the opportunity to stamp his authority on the side for at least another term before any decisions are made. However, they are in good stead for a title challenge if this is the case.
9 Transfer Kitty
Manchester United will have yet another transfer fund in which to dip into during the summer. In this way, it will mean that Van Gaal will have the ability to go wild in the footballing aisles as far as transfers are concerned. After all, the owners need to ensure that all the corporate advertising and sponsors are on side. This means investing in them which will enable United to launch a title assault.
As we have seen in the last six weeks, Van Gaal's philosophy is starting to take shape at Old Trafford. This means they will hopefully be in better shape for the 2015/16 season to take it to the next level. United are of course infamous for grinding out results like they have done during this current campaign. Nevertheless, there are promising signs which have been emerging for supporters with performances improving significantly.
Van Gaal is not only about keeping shape but demanding a certain level of intensity. This is what he has precisely asked for when it comes to United performances. Despite there being a lack of speed or flow of play at the beginning of the campaign, the levels of intensity have been raised dramatically in the last six performances. This includes the matches against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur where the speed of play was much quicker. Therefore, this period of transition may be coming to a short end if United's renowned intensity is reintroduced again.
When Newcastle United were 12 points ahead of Manchester United everyone declared the title race over. Yet the Reds managed to claw back from this deficit and win the title off the Magpies. Experience is absolutely crucial as far as a title challenge is concerned and there can no better side than United. They simply have bags of knowledge in relation to these particular situations which may see them go close next year. Teams with this experience aren't kept down for long.
5 David de Gea
If Manchester United are able to keep David de Gea, this again will prove to be a vital cog in their footballing machine. The Spanish international has been responsible for a number of different man of the match performances. This has included performances against the likes of Everton where he saved a Leighton Baines penalty but also Liverpool. With a record breaking 10 saves in one game, he has now become a major figurehead at Old Trafford. It will be vital if they can stave off interest from Real Madrid as De Gea will have an integral role next year.
However, it was not all roses for De Gea when he made to move to Old Trafford. He was criticized by many for his waif like figure and his lack of imposition in the penalty area. This led to under achieving performances and a severe lack of confidence. This was summed up in the League Cup semi final defeat to Sunderland where he let slip Phil Bardsley's shot under his hands and into the net. Yet, he has bulked up significantly and commands his eighteen yard area with seamless ease. De Gea has already saved United several points this season and he is a genuine contender to fill the boots of former greats such as Peter Schmeichel and most recently Edwin van der Sar.
4 Michael Carrick
Another vital component of the side is midfielder Michael Carrick. Once again he will be essential if United are to challenge for the title. An extremely underrated player, he is able to play the ball forward and act in a positive manner. Furthermore, without Carrick, United have conceded more goals as well as gained fewer points. The former Spurs man has the ability to pick a pass at will. In fact, Carrick is responsible for his forward thinking approach to the game as he plays the ball forward. This is in stark contrast to United at the beginning of the season where fans criticized their negative style. Instead the ball was simply going sideways and backwards, whilst with Carrick at least he attempts to look forward.
On the other hand, he is able to sit in front of the back four and marshal Chris Smalling and Phil Jones to great effect. In essence, take Carrick out of the starting 11 and Manchester United are a different team altogether.
3 Top Four
With the Red Devils closing in on a top four slot this season it will no doubt help them attract some of the biggest names in soccer. It was of vital importance that Manchester United finished in the top four. After all, this was the minimum target which was set by coach Louis Van Gaal and the club itself. This is for a wealth of reasons especially on the sponsorship side. Consequently, Manchester United will be able to find suitable players in order to assist them with a title as well as Champions League campaign.
2 Sir Alex Ferguson
What better person to rely on than Sir Alex Ferguson. The mercurial Scot has been at the club for the best part of three decades and Van Gaal has a wealth of knowledge and expertise at his footballing fingertips. Van Gaal now has the ability to gain a detailed insight into the club, whilst at the same time find out what it takes to become champions. This means that the Dutchman has everything he needs to ensure United are fully equipped from opposing players to styles of play and much more. With Ferguson's insight and wisdom, Van Gaal will be able to really understand what Manchester United is all about.
It is a big if at present, but if United are able to stave off injuries they will be in good shape to challenge Chelsea and Manchester City. During the current season, Van Gaal has had to deal with a wide variety of injuries. In fact at one time, he had more than a dozen players on the injury table. Through the years, it is clearly evident that avoiding injuries does benefit teams and their title challenge. If Manchester United can remain injury free, this will certainly increase the possibility of a successful title assault in 2015/16.