THE BLOG
11/06/2015 13:27 BST | Updated 11/06/2016 06:59 BST

Big Summer Ahead for Manchester United and Van Gaal

This season was a bit of an odd one for Manchester United. On one hand, a Champions League berth was exactly what they wanted from the campaign, but on the other, they only just managed to limp there, always looking a bit short of full power.

Whenever it looked like a corner had been turned, something went wrong. When it looked like second place was within reach with six games left, they imploded - winning just one game, losing three. As good as some of United's players are, the squad is full of holes.

Those holes are only going to get bigger with this summer's departures, with Falcao's loan ending and Robin van Persie almost certainly on his way, United are left with just one senior striker in Wayne Rooney, with young James Wilson as backup - Javier Hernandez returns from his Real Madrid loan spell soon, but seems likely to leave the club for good in search of consistent first-team football.

It's this sudden lack of leading men has almost certainly been the spark for the club's apparent frenzied chase of Spurs' Harry Kane, with talk of a massive £50m bid, despite the player's apparent reluctance to move.

The other concern that will be giving Louis van Gaal some sleepless nights is David De Gea's situation, as it looks increasingly likely that the Premier League's best goalkeeper will be making his way back to his home country to play for Real Madrid.

While replacing Falcao and Van Persie shouldn't be much more than a speedbump in the road for a team with United's recruiting capabilities, De Gea's impending departure is a far more pressing problem - world class goalkeepers don't grow on trees.

United signed Victor Valdes midway through the season for this kind of eventuality, but he didn't exactly impress in his two appearances between the sticks, performing somewhere between 'badly' and 'horribly'. Hugo Lloris looks to be at the top of the target list, but that signing will wipe out any hope of snaring Harry Kane. Spurs may let one go north, but not both.

More mundanely, there's a couple of other positions that need strengthening - a right-back and a left-back might help, but there's something of wide defender shortage in Europe at the moment, and Van Gaal might have to make do with what he already has.

He and United's higher ups may find it hard to resist a mad spending spree though, because the next season is one of the most vital in the club's recent history and they daren't mess it up.

Sounds a bit like unnecessary hyperbole? Not so much. After so many years right at the top of English football, the Moyes season was a shock to the system. £150m and the addition of Louis van Gaal at the helm helped to right the ship and put United back near the right track, but the job is far from done.

Just think - even without the pressure on the squad that comes with a European campaign (or even a Capital One Cup campaign, just in case we were in danger of forgetting that MK Dons game), United stumbled to a fourth place finish, just six points clear of a shambolic Spurs team.

It's unlikely that the chasing pack will be quite as much of a rabble next season - surely Liverpool will actually manage to find a striker with working hamstrings who knows where the goal is? Spurs, too, can't get much worse, and will be putting heavy pressure on the top four.

For a United squad pretty low on depth in defence and up front, the prospect of improving their league position while wearing themselves out in a tiring Champions League campaign may be a little daunting.

The club have to go against last season's apparent "sign a few of stars for bucketloads of money and hope that they fix all the problems" approach and bring on board some more workmanlike players who can perform reliably, add actual depth to the squad and give the stars a chance to show what they can actually do.

Van Gaal famously often takes a season before his teams really start to push on. If he's going to follow that pattern in Manchester, he's got a lot of work to do.

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