Manchester United’s slap-dash transfer policy during Louis van Gaal’s first summer in charge left the Dutch coach with big holes in deep midfield and central defence, meaning he had to muddle his way through the opening couple of months of his reign.
However, despite previously-unheralded young centre-half pairing Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair making 18 Premier League starts between them, and wholly-unsuitable duo Ander Herrera and Daley Blind filling in as anchormen on occasion, the Iron Tulip still managed to steer his new side back to the top-four promised land.
With that in mind, it’s difficult to understand why the 13-time Premier League champions are 5/1 fourth-favourites to lift the title next term, behind Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal, now that the Old Trafford transfer brains trust has got its act together.
After failing to secure a holding midfielder last summer, United now have two new bodies to play there in Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger, although the pair are probably more likely to perform box-to-box roles while Michael Carrick is fit.
Alternatively, Carrick could drop into a back three if Van Gaal goes with the 3-5-2 formation he utilised to stunning effect when leading the Netherlands to the semi-finals of last summer’s World Cup.
Right wing-back Matteo Darmian, the Italy international signed from Torino for £12.7m, would certainly compliment this strategy, while £31m Oranje wide-forward Memphis Depay might be relied upon to perform the role Arjen Robben carried out with aplomb up front in Brazil.
Furthermore, it would take a brave punter to wager on United’s summer spending stopping now, with Valencia centre-half Nicolas Otamendi reportedly ready to go on strike at the Mestalla to force an Old Trafford switch, while rumours persist regarding a potential bid for Paris Saint-Germain hitman Edinson Cavani.
If those two transfers come off, surely Van Gaal’s men will at least overtake Arsenal in the top-flight betting ranks, after finishing just five points off the Gunners last term.
After all, Arsene Wenger’s side haven’t won the Premier League for 11 years and have been somewhat slow off the mark this summer, picking up just goalie Petr Cech so far, while 2012/13 champions United’s post-Sir Alex Ferguson rebuild finally seems well underway.