The vast majority of Manchester United fans will be dearly hoping goalkeeper David De Gea will still be on the books and Nicolas Otamendi, or a centre-half of his ilk, will be at Old Trafford when the transfer window ‘slams’ shut.
It’s a fully understandable consensus. Last season under Louis van Gaal, United were shakier than a wet dog in defence at times, relying far too heavily on the reactions of De Gea to save their bacon.
A plethora of injuries also plagued the Dutch tactician it must be said. Juggling personnel is never easy for a manager, especially for a completely new one to a club, who isn’t up to speed on his players’ abilities – or lack of them.
But for a manager who has built up a glittering CV on far more solid foundations than were witnessed at Old Trafford last season, United were still a little frail for many people’s minds under the Iron Tulip.
Integral then, that De Gea be retained and another top centre-half be added if United are to get anywhere near defying odds of 5/1 to lift the title in LVG’s second season…or is it?
With a full pre-season behind him and some marquee names added to his roster, especially in central midfield, Van Gaal’s class of 2015/16 is structurally far sounder already.
Successive clean sheets have ensured consecutive victories to begin the league campaign, and although there is much to work on in an attacking sense, the defence has been resolute.
Centre-halves Chris Smalling and Daley Blind have earned respective man-of-of-the-match awards for the Red Devils against Tottenham and Aston Villa, while new keeper Sergio Romero has also earned high praise.
Blind’s accomplished displays in a supposedly unfamiliar position are quite telling. The left-sided player attracted criticism in the holding midfield role last season, yet has offered United a great balance alongside the right-sided Smalling early on.
With natural left-back Luke Shaw also starting the season very promisingly, there is also great hope he can replicate the kind of injury-free, influential campaign he enjoyed at Southampton which prompted United to splash out.
Perhaps after all, the versatile Blind is best utilised as a centre-back, allowing Shaw to flourish.
Italy right-back Matteo Darmian also looks a shrewd and robust addition on the other flank.
With Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Paddy McNair and Jonny Evans all still to come in as back-up, alongside part-time right-back Antonio Valencia, the cupboards are far from bare back there.
In the shot-stopping department, promising youngster Sam Johnstone has twice made the bench, but hypothetically Anders Lindegaard can step in and Victor Valdes remains a ghostly figure in the background.
It’s conceivable Van Gaal is also well enough stocked to cover the departure of De Gea therefore, especially if whoever replaces him is far better protected.
Crucially also, this is most likely to be United’s final chance to cash in on the Real Madrid target as he enters the final year of his contract.
The Red Devils may just be okay if the perceived horror of losing De Gea and failing to land Otamendi actually becomes reality.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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