Louis van Gaal needs to mount serious title challenge after United spending
Louis van Gaal has spent big money at Manchester United and after finishing fourth, it's time for him to mount a serious title challenge. Here's a look at what to expect from United as we approach the new campaign ...
After finishing seventh under David Moyes, United have spent around £300 million since Louis van Gaal took over. Fourth was the bare minimum last season and after another summer of spending, Van Gaal needs to justify the huge outlay. He will also have to negotiate the Champions League playoffs and give a good account of his side in the tournament proper. Plenty of work to do.
The biggest worry is that the gold dust has all run out, that Sir Alex Ferguson used it all up and the club is going to have to find some other way of bringing the glory days back. The year of Moyes was a disaster, followed by Van Gaal's season to try and clean up the mess. He did a satisfactory job.
The first year after Ferguson was explained away with the incompetence of Moyes and the second year was billed as a time for rebuilding, but what if in the third season post-Ferguson, United don't improve? Not many supporters are expecting United to win the title this season but they are certainly presuming the players will now fully understand Van Gaal's "philosophy" and use that to succeed on the pitch.
There are also worries over the club plugging the gaps in the squad, with United in desperate need of a couple of strikers and a defender. Given that all the other transfer business was conducted in time for the tour, there's a sinking feeling that maybe Van Gaal believes United will survive with Daley Blind playing at centre-half.
Player to watch
Initially, it would have been Angel Di Maria. Despite being dreadful for the majority of last season, only Cesc Fabregas assisted more goals than him, which is an indicator of what he is capable of when he does find form. He had the potential to light up the Premier League, just as he did in the opening weeks of last season, but has chosen to move to Paris Saint-Germain instead.
In America, Memphis Depay gave fans a glimpse of what they can expect next season. He loves to be on the ball, runs at the opposition, likes to get a shot away and plays with aggression. Moving to United and the Premier League is a big step up, so it may be a while until we see the best of him but he certainly looks like an exciting player to have around.
Van Gaal joined the club with one of the best CVs in world football and it's no surprise the fans were expecting him to save them from the humiliation of 2013-14.
He is everything that Moyes wasn't, and that was good enough for a lot of supporters. The season was certainly passable, with United finishing in the top four, but there was nothing extraordinary about it. Van Gaal probably underestimated the job at hand, had to deal with a ridiculous number of injuries and was let down by the strikers. So, if you were to be kind, you could argue he was unlucky in lots of ways in his first season.
However, it's easy to forget just how frustrating United were at times, with Van Gaal's obsession with possession meaning that excitement and flair were largely forgotten about. That period in March and April showed exactly what Van Gaal was capable of creating with this group of players, especially when teams came into the game wanting a match, rather than just going into it to defend. But those days took far too long to arrive and were far too short-lived.
Still, he got the results in a lot of the big games and that means a lot to the fans after United's capitulation in matches against their rivals the season before. There is the general consensus among the fan base that United will do better with him next season, with LVG having a good understanding of what the club expects from him and having the ability to put that into practice.
Predicted Finish - 2nd
View from the stands
Opposition you dislike most
Liverpool, obviously. You would think that their inability to win the league in over 25 years -- and United making it 20-18 titles won in their favour -- would have dampened the rivalry, but it hasn't.
Watching Steven Gerrard get sent off seconds after coming on, in his last ever game against United last season at Anfield, was a season highlight for a lot of fans. There's nothing like seeing your hated rivals suffer, and there's not another team in the country United fans would rather have seen Juan Mata score those two stunning goals against.
Opposition you admire most
Southampton, probably. They lost a lot of their best players last summer yet still went on to have a great season. Their lack of squad depth meant they were unable to hold on to the place in the top four they occupied for plenty of weekends. Still, they replaced their outgoing players very well, played good football and certainly overachieved.
Best Away Fans
In terms of noise, West Ham fans give a good account of themselves. When looking at numbers, Arsenal pretty much always sell out their allocation, whatever day of the week or time the game is played.
Best Away Grounds
Goodison Park is an awful, old and crumbly stadium but it's still a great place to visit. When you look at the soulless new builds, Everton's home is a window in to the good old days.
Ewood Park was always a good one for United fans too because they gave up a whole stand, which meant that supporters who failed to get away tickets on a fortnightly basis could usually get to at least one away game a season. As funny as it was when Blackburn were relegated in 2012, there are lots of Reds who would like to see them promoted again.
Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.