Remember the dark days of Louis van Gaal’s first six games in charge of Manchester United? The Reds had stumbled through their worst start to a season since the mid-1980s and it was bad – just two wins from six.
Funny then, it slipped under the radar that United’s last six games of a maiden campaign under the Dutchman were worse than the first. So poor, in fact, United wrapped up the Premier League season with just five points from 18 and scored just three goals.
Some of the positivity around their top-four finish masked the fact that they would need a miracle to win the title this season.
But things have changed because in just a week that perception has been flipped on its head.
The reason? Well, there are three of them: Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin. Three excellent additions, three exciting names and now United can start dreaming of making up the three positions from last term and win their 21st league crown.
In total there’s been four signings during the summer with Memphis Depay quickly captured before the season’s end.
Now, the face of Old Trafford’s team is different. It’s clear chief executive Ed Woodward has learned from his previous failures in the transfer market.
With Schweinsteiger, a World Cup winner, and Schneiderlin, a France international hungry to prove he belongs at the top level, United have reinforcements in an area that’s lacked bite since the 2008 Premier League and Champions League triumphs.
Darmian, a versatile right-back, who as well as being a very capable defender is accomplished going forward, fills another vital gap.
There’s a clear structure to United’s business this summer and brick by brick you feel they’re building a team capable of mounting a challenge to both Manchester City and Chelsea.
Perhaps it’s not the United way to have made so many changes so quickly. Sir Alex Ferguson had a remarkable ability to freshen up his squads without a huge turnover.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 14, 2015
Rio Ferdinand, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney all arrived as single notable additions in successive years between 2002 and 2004. These subtle tweaks ensured consistent challenges for titles and trophies, much in the way Jose Mourinho has done at Chelsea.
That was then and this is now, the landscape is different but after a summer of filling holes, Van Gaal has restored the strength we’ve grown accustomed to with United.
They’re looking competitive once again. But – and there’s always a but – it’s important to remember that new signings do not carry the luxury of guarantees.
There’s no certainty they will gel instantly in the way Mourinho has solidified his squad. There are still fundamental issues to be resolved. Without David De Gea, United would arguably have finished fifth last season.
Though talks with Real Madrid seemed to have stalled, it seems inevitable he will leave. Who will replace him?
It’s in front of United’s No1 that there is work to be done, too. The pursuit of Sergio Ramos has gone cold. Nicolas Otamendi is another target but that’s all there is right now. United also need a striker. Robin van Persie is on his way to Fenerbahce and Radamel Falcao is already a distant memory.
They’re not done yet, but if the past week is anything to go by then expect more aggressive moves in the market by a club determined to restore former glories.
Leicester have appointed the vastly-experienced Claudio Ranieri as their new manager, but former club icon Gary Lineker has called the Italian’s hiring “uninspiring”.
The Premier League club confirmed Ranieri, 63, has signed a three-year deal at the King Power Stadium to replace Nigel Pearson, who was relieved of his duties last month because the club insisted “fundamental differences in perspective exist between us”.
Claudio Ranieri? Really?
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 13, 2015
Amazing how the same old names keep getting a go on the managerial merrygoround http://t.co/ZbvorBXY3G
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 13, 2015
Ranieri’s 29-year managerial career has spanned 14 clubs across five countries, including European giants such as Chelsea, Juventus and Atletico Madrid, but ex-Foxes and England striker Lineker is less than impressed with the decision taken by his old side’s hierarchy.
“Claudio Ranieri is clearly experienced, but this is an uninspired choice by Leicester,” he said on BreatheSport.
“It’s amazing how the same old names keep getting a go on the managerial merry-go-round.”
Ranieri has been out of work since a winless four-game stint with Greece in 2014 was ended after the country were beaten 1-0 by minnows the Faroe Islands.
It is more than 10 years since he last managed in EPL with Chelsea, who he took to the Champions League semi-finals and to second place in the 2003-04 Premier League table behind Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ before being replaced by Jose Mourinho.
Ranieri has managed in Spain, Italy and France since but revealed he has always harboured aspirations of returning to English football’s top flight and he said: “I’m so glad to be here in a club with such a great tradition as Leicester City.
“I have worked at many great clubs, in many top leagues, but since I left Chelsea I have dreamt of another chance to work in the best league in the world again.
“I wish to thank the owner, his son and all the executives of the club for the opportunity. Now I’ve only one way for returning their trust: squeeze all my energies to getting the best results.”
Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is a big injury doubt for the start of the new Premier League season after suffering a fractured wrist, the Premier League club revealed.
The 28-year-old French international was injured in the period since the end of last season, but Tottenham didn’t disclose exactly how he sustained the problem.
Lloris, who joined the north London club from French team Lyon in 2012, made 35 Premier League appearances last term and was one of the star performers for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Lloris has been reported as a potential transfer target for Manchester United if the Old Trafford outfit sell their first choice keeper David de Gea to Real Madrid before the start of the season.
However, the Spurs shot stopper will not be able to complete any form of contact training until he’s given the all clear from medical staff, but will continue to work on his fitness.
“The club can confirm that Hugo Lloris has sustained a fractured wrist during the close-season period,” a statement on Tottenham’s website announced.
“The France goalkeeper will continue to work alongside the First Team squad to build up his fitness in a bid to be ready for the start of the season.
“Our medical team will continue to monitor his rehabilitation and progress during pre-season.”
Unfortunate, Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris has broken his wrist. #Spurs
— Brighty (@Mark__Bright) July 13, 2015
If Lloris is unable to recover in time for Tottenham’s opening Premier League fixture at Manchester United on August 8 then former Swansea keeper Michel Vorm would likely deputise for the Frenchman.
The news could even have implications for United manager Louis van Gaal, who is said to view Lloris as a potential contender to replace De Gea who is wanted by Madrid.
The injury may force the Dutch manager into re-evaluating his targets ahead of De Gea’s potential exit. There are fears Lloris could miss up to three months with the problem.