The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
After the misery of the Moyes era, Man United hopes to have found a saviour in Van Gaal
MANCHESTER, England - From the gloom and constant disappointments of David Moyes' tenure to hope and anticipation under new manager Louis van Gaal, the mood at Manchester United has shifted dramatically heading into the new Premier League season.
Order appears to have been restored at Old Trafford after United's most tumultuous year in a generation, when Moyes turned the club from English champions into something of a laughing stock in the space of 10 months.
And it's all down to the appointment of Van Gaal, the kind of charismatic, authoritarian coach United should really have gone for in the summer of 2013 to usher in the post-Alex Ferguson era.
It's barely been a month since he took over after his World Cup duties with the Netherlands and it's always hasty to make judgments based on preseason results, but things are already looking up for England's biggest team.
United is yet to lose under Van Gaal, beating Liverpool and Real Madrid on the way to winning a preseason tournament in the United States, and looks to have warmed to the tactics and change of formation (to a 3-5-2) of the Dutchman.
Players like Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata look energized.
"He's a tough manager but he's been great since he came in," Rooney said. "He's given us all a different way of looking at football, which we haven't had before."
It's a huge contrast to life under Moyes, who never garnered the respect of the squad due to his lack of top-level experience as a manager.
Van Gaal has coached — and won league titles — in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands and has the gravitas to take on the rebuilding job at United that proved too much for his predecessor.
Already, aging defensive trio Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra have been moved on and Van Gaal has signalled that some fringe players will be jettisoned. That could include the likes of Nani, Anderson and Javier Hernendez, as well as Marouane Fellaini, who has flopped since joining from Everton for 27.5 million pounds (then $43 million) last summer.
The only signings have been left back Luke Shaw and Spanish central midfielder Ander Herrera for a combined 50 million pounds ($84 million) but there are likely to be more incomings before the transfer window shuts on Aug. 31.
It will be a strange season for United, which failed to qualify for any European competition for the first time since 1990 after finishing in seventh place last season — 22 points behind Premier League winner Manchester City.
But United will have noted how Liverpool benefited last season from no European involvement to finish second, and it would be foolish to write off the team's chances of regaining the title.
Van Gaal's likely front line of Rooney, Robin van Persie and Juan Mata is one of the strongest in the league and Herrera brings energy to the midfield that was lacking last season.
Defensively, United appears vulnerable — Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling aren't in the same class as Ferdinand and Vidic — but the same was said of Van Gaal's Dutch team at the World Cup and it reached the semifinals, only missing out on a place in the final on penalties.
Even if United fails to bridge the gap to title favourites City and Chelsea, fans at Old Trafford still are likely to see that kind of attractive, expansive, attacking football that had become commonplace before Moyes' troubled reign.
With Ryan Giggs retired from playing and now in the dugout as Van Gaal's assistant, this will be the first season without a member of the famous "Class of 92" in the squad.
It's certainly a new era for United — and in Van Gaal, it has a proven winner to kick it off.
In: Luke Shaw (Southampton), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao), Vanja Milinkovic (FK Vojvodina).
Out: Alexander Buttner (Dynamo Moscow), Patrice Evra (Juventus), Bebe (Benfica), Feredrico Macheda (Cardiff City), Nemanja Vidic (Inter Milan), Rio Ferdinand (Queens Park Rangers).
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