Four ways Manchester United can improve next season

Darren Fletcher

Manchester United won the Premier League title on Monday night – their 20th league title – with four games to spare with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Aston Villa.

There is not a shred of doubt they have been the best team in the league by some distance – whilst Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini may believe his side ‘don’t deserve’ to be so many points behind the new champions, the table doesn’t lie and, frankly, United have been outstanding this season.

However, no doubt City will heal their hurts, along with the also-rans of Chelsea, Tottenham, and Arsenal and they will rejuvenate over the summer – the top four will spend to mend their ills and United cannot afford to rest on their laurels – they too must restore, regenerate and revitalize.

Whilst transfers will be the focus over the summer, United can mend and make do to a large extent – their champions have been magnificent this term but nobody’s perfect. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson can still improve with what he’s got.

1) Creativity

One of the first things the manager will need to address is his central midfield – the injuries to veteran Paul Scholes, new boy Shinji Kagawa and the health problems of Darren Fletcher have meant that Wayne Rooney, formerly a striker, has been dropped into a deeper role in attacking midfield – effectively his functionality have been as a playmaker.

Michael Carrick has undoubtedly had been best ever season – in the absence of the aforementioned, Carrick has stepped up and taken charge. He’s displayed much more creative ability.

However, United will still need to permanently replace Scholes as Sir Alex has been trying to for several seasons now. At 38, he’s not going to be able to have the impact he has for the last two decades with the Red Devils.

Perhaps Rooney’s conversion should remain the permanent solution and Carrick can certainly be of assistance, along with Kagawa who, if he can stay fit, can fill the void but one way or another, United are going to need to find more creative ways to feed Robin van Persie up front.

2) Width

Another pressing issue to address is the wide areas – Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, and Nani have all had their troubles with injury but, regardless, they haven’t provided enough of a threat going forward.

United teams of the past really thrived off the service of Ryan Giggs and David Beckham and it’s no coincidence their forwards have always performed so well under those conditions.

The imminent arrival of Wilfried Zaha will mean they have added pace and impetus going forward but they will require someone on the opposite flank to add balance to the youngster’s energy.

More width will also free up more space for the central midfielders to operate in which would likely go some way to solve their build-up play.

3) Defensive record

Whilst United have been outstanding at the back and all of their defenders have been simply superb for the most part, they ought to be keeping more clean sheets.

David De Gea has improved greatly this term, and Rafael has really hit his stride and found the consistency and maturity capable of replacing Gary Neville. Patrice Evra has been the consummate professional, as have Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans.

Captain Nemanja Vidic has had his injury problems but United have coped well in his absence – Phil Jones has been an absolute revelation, protecting both the backline and the keeper admirably.

However, United need to make themselves more watertight at the back – they are still prone to wobbles, as was the case in both FA Cup games against Chelsea. They must re-organize and defend better as a team.

4) Reliance on Van Persie

Robin van Persie has had another sensational season but when he hit a bit of a baron run recently, United looked worryingly short of ideas going forward. They, of course, have great options in Rooney, Chicharito, and Danny Welbeck but rather than rotate personnel, they may want to ensure they don’t’ depend on the Dutchman quite so much so often.

He will be 30 next term and has a track record of longs spells out injured – United have 18 different goalscorers this term which is remarkable and they ought to explore the depth of their squad and adapt their focus up front.

Ferguson may be better off employing a team tactic that serves whichever forward is up front so that he has less to worry about in the Dutchman’s absence.

image: © apasciuto

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