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Post by Admin on Wed Aug 26, 2015 12:20 pm

Having missed out on transfer targets and with the David de Gea saga
rumbling on, Louis van Gaal must guide his side into the Champions League
to avoid a season in the wilderness.
Louis van Gaal has called it the biggest game of his Manchester
United reign, and the difference between winning and losing is simply
When United take their 3-1 lead over Club Brugge to the Jan Breydelstadion
on Wednesday night in their Champions League play-off, they do so with
hundreds of millions of pounds and two seasons riding on the result. And
that’s not to mention the change it will make to the pulling power of a club
who have suffered significant blows in the transfer market this summer.
Another campaign without Champions League football would be a near-
disaster for United and, as the manager pointed out on Tuesday, it would
undo all of the work of last season too if they were to squander their
position of superiority in Belgium.
"It was our aim to participate in the Champions League. We are still not
there yet, it's very important," the Dutchman told a press conference.
"We have to play the game, at the end you have to have scored one goal
more than the opponent. They have beaten Greek opponents [Panathinaikos]
3-0, they are capable of doing that with the support of their fans."
Following a summer which has so far seen United miss out on many of their
bigger name targets and lose the undivided attention of their two-time
Player of the Year David de Gea, the last thing they need is to surrender
their significant lead against Club Brugge.
Any claim that United are slipping from their position of European power
could only be bolstered by elimination from the one competition that really
counts on that front. No big names will be rushing to Old Trafford over the
final six days of the transfer window for a taste of Europa League football,
while De Gea’s seemingly inevitable exit would surely only be hastened. A
club which has spent over £300 million across the last 20 months will be
left with a booby prize to show for it.
Had they only led 2-1 in the tie, their position would only have been more
precarious. Yet it is thanks to unlikely hero Marouane Fellaini that they take
a two-goal advantage into the away leg, and the big Belgium could yet see
his United spell revitalised as a result of the club’s indifferent transfer
The 27-year-old was pilloried after his first season with the club under
David Moyes, with the expectation attached to his £27.5 million price tag
proving difficult to shake off during a testing first 12 months.
Yet last season his form improved markedly and with United short on
numbers and options in attack following the exits of Robin van Persie and
Radamel Falcao this summer, Fellaini is set to play a vital role in the
forward line this term.
“He can play as a No.9 and a No.10, and he can also play as a No.6 and
No.8,” Van Gaal said of the Belgium international on Tuesday.
“This year he will play more as a No.9 and No.10 rather than six and eight
because there we have other players.”
It is not a new sensation for Fellaini to be thrust into a more elevated
position, with his time at Everton punctuated by spells as one of the
Toffees’ key attacking components.
"In the past I have played No.9 and No.10," he stressed on Tuesday. "I
have to help the team. I can play there. It's not important where I play, the
most important thing is to win the game. Of course it's different, but I enjoy
all the positions I can play in."
But the level at which he will be expected to operate this season provides
something of an unknown.
From a United fan’s point of view it feels very much like a Plan B to have
Fellaini move into the forward line. While the Belgian’s height has already
proven handy with that crucial injury-time goal eight days ago, on the face
of it his presence in the forward line promotes the kind of percentage
football that Old Trafford regulars have railed against for many years.
"Attack, attack, attack" is a common cry at home games these days, and
Fellaini’s angular nature is not what the Stretford End has in mind when
they implore their men to turn on the style. What they want is for Wayne
Rooney to take the ball and dictate. They want Memphis Depay to thrill.
They want Juan Mata to provide some magic.
They would have surely loved to see Pedro Rodriguez blaze a trail down the
wing too, but that failed pursuit has been the latest black mark on their
summer. After Sergio Ramos used them to get a new deal at Real Madrid,
De Gea made it known his head is in the Spanish capital and they missed
out on Nicolas Otamendi, United need a boost.
A return to the Champions League would provide exactly the kind of
statement they need to be making right now. Modern football is a fickle
environment, and a second successive campaign away from the top table
would chip away a little more at the lustre of days gone by. That cannot be
allowed to happen.
Success in Belgium, and United are on the way back to the top of the game
with time to spare in the transfer window to make the most of their
increased appeal. Failure is not even worth thinking about.

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