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Manchester United's European progress is more important than new signings

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Manchester United's progress to the Champions League group stages is more important to the side than any proposed new signings might be.

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Patience amongst Manchester United fans seems low at the moment. Not to the point of booing a loss first game of the season (probably because they won), but Louis van Gaal looks to be set for copping it regardless. That's even before he has had chance to sort and show his hand. It is rather strange, really, given the previous two campaigns and tolerance it required, particularly the glacial occurrence of fixtures endured over the past calendar year. The level of scrutiny and absolutes game-to-game in August is already wearing - the only respite being another match to focus on and for signs of improvement. The next for United is a biggie.

Drawing Club Brugge was a relative gift as their final hurdle for Champions League football after a season without it. The Belgian side have, however, bettered Panathinaikos in the third qualifying round, 3-0 at home, overturning a first leg deficit. That is, after all, how the rules work. The fillip for United returning to the competition in September is vital for everyone concerned if progress is to continue. Failing to do so would eclipse Arsenal's and Chelsea's slapstick start with toxic clown shoes all round at Old Trafford. No pressure.

An away win on Friday against Aston Villa, while lacking any fizz, displayed a better level of control than many previous sub-par performances on the road, particularly in defence and then notably when Bastian Schweinsteiger got involved second half. Control was the buzzword, and you can envisage Schweinsteiger, if ready to start, guiding United safely through.

Answers to questions about performance and style should be found from the current squad and coming games than from another blitz on the transfer market and an apparent quick fix. The defence are, for the moment, coping much better than people expected. All areas of midfield are suddenly awash with talent, but Wayne Rooney is still on some sort of stag-based holiday. Like Ferguson, Van Gaal is expected to get plenty out of his players, and we will simply have to wait to see what direction he takes his team in. United haven't played against the kind of team against whom United can measure their progress though. These extra games help prepare for such a test.

Quite clearly, United do need a better option if Rooney is to be boundlessly incapable, as well as ideally Pedro replacing Di Maria and probably another equally established centre back if there are lofty ambitions this season. The David de Gea issue alone would ordinarily be enough to fret over for one summer such are the rearrangements and now expectations. A previously oft-rumoured superstar to boot is essential if the transfer window is to end with promise and excitement. So far, the bare minimum has been done to avoid panic. More is needed to avoid mediocrity. The manager's line about signing only better than what he has does ring true, and those mooted players - those, more importantly, that United have already acquired recently - not only demand being in European competition, but simply require games as a squad.

Van Gaal said of the draw earlier this month: "It will be nice to go back to Belgium, I have good memories of my time playing there for Antwerp." A United victory is necessary to give the fans hope of some good memories of their own. Finish the job there next Wednesday, however pretty, and then fans can allow themselves to fancy another exciting signing, but more importantly a full complement of competition.