Almost every player has improved on their 2013/2014 performances under Louis van Gaal this season. Players who were considered ‘deadwood’ and ‘surplus to requirements’ at the end of last season have upped their game and become regular first team players. There is no better example than Ashley Young; he was near the top of most fans’ list of players that need to be shipped out over the summer. However he has quickly adapted to van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation in pre-season in the left wing-back role, which he has excelled in recently and has been an integral part of United’s current nine match unbeaten streak.
Another player who is enjoying a fair amount of success is Moyes’ only signing last summer, Marouane Fellaini. From minute one he was massively criticised throughout last season, firstly for his inflated transfer fee of £27 million, and then afterwards for his underwhelming performances which really intensified many fans’ discontent towards him. However this season he has proven himself to be a useful asset to Van Gaal, and his physical dominance in midfield was particularly helpful in United’s win at Arsenal last month. His thunderous strike away at West Brom shows signs of him regaining the form he displayed at Everton, and if he continues to improve his performances, there is definitely a long term place for him in United’s midfield.
Even players who performed relatively well in last season’s disastrous campaign have taken it up a gear, last year’s player of the year David de Gea has been even more magnificent this season and he has probably been United’s best player so far. Adnan Januzaj performances were another shining light in last season’s miserable campaign, however unlike every other player at the club, his form has regressed since last year. He has been considered for some time to be United’s most promising youngster, and with van Gaal’s excellent record of nurturing youth players many predicted this season to be the time when Januzaj established himself as an important first team player. However with just 4 starts this season Januzaj has very much been on the fringes of the first team for the first half of this season, and this is surprising considering how much United have rotated their squad this season.
People have pinpointed the arrival of Di Maria over the summer as a reason for his lack of playtime this campaign, with Di Maria ahead of him in the pecking order it has become even more difficult for Januzaj to get appearances in an attacking midfield that already has some world class talent in Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney. Others have suggested that he is not suited to the 3-5-2 formation that is being used this season, Januzaj lacks the defensive qualities to become a wing-back, leaving him with only the extremely competitive centre attacking midfield position to fight for.
His lack of playtime has prompted media reports of him being loaned out in January, with Real Sociedad and Everton being two of the clubs that are reportedly interested. While I believe that it is important for a young player to play regularly, I think that he will benefit more by staying at United and understanding van Gaal’s philosophies and style of play. This way next season when United (hopefully) have a more balanced squad and are competing in the champions league we may revert to Van Gaal’s favoured 4-3-3 formation, where Januzaj will have more opportunities to play and the fact that the manager has worked with him for a year will mean he will be at an advantage over any new signings. Whether he goes out on loan in the upcoming January transfer window or stays and fights for his place remains to be seen. Either way, at just 19 years of age he still has plenty of time ahead of him and I have complete confidence in van Gaal in getting Januzaj to achieve his full potential.