Manchester United emerged from the transfer window with a rich icing and the brightest of cherries to decorate their cake but the suspicion remains that the team's base may crumble under pressure. Colombia striker Radamel Falcao has the pedigree to light up Old Trafford and Argentine midfielder Angel di Maria the class to fill the club's iconic number seven shirt with distinction.
The high-profile signings are consistent with United's history of playing attacking football and proof that despite the club's lack of European football this season they can still attract the world's top players. Swapping Falcao for Javier Hernandez and Di Maria for Shinji Kagawa is indisputably a significant upgrade.
But United failed to offload midfielders including Tom Cleverley, Marouane Fellaini and Anderson whose futures under new manager Louis van Gaal look bleak. Even more worryingly, Van Gaal failed to recruit the top-class central defender he so badly needs following the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
Argentine Marcos Rojo will increase the Dutchman's options along with the arrival of his versatile compatriot Daley Blind but the unconvincing Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans will have to shoulder the main responsibility at the back. Central midfield has also been a major problem area for United since the halcyon days of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes.
The experienced Michael Carrick has been the main man for the past two seasons but, partnered by Darren Fletcher or Cleverley, the team's lack of pace and creativity in central areas was frequently exposed. Van Gaal has brought in Spaniard Ander Herrera, who will add speed and bite in the middle of the park, and he may try to deploy Di Maria centrally as well in order to fit Juan Mata into the side.
Mata has failed to shine since his £37 million ($61.2 million) move from Chelsea in January and his place in United's starting line-up may be under threat as Van Gaal seeks to play a more energetic and high-tempo game.
plenty of firepower
United should not be short of goals with Falcao, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney leading the line. Although Van Persie failed to live up to his stellar first year at United last season, the Dutchman should relish working with his former international manager Van Gaal. Rooney, entrusted with the captaincy of both club and country, must assume more responsibility and Van Gaal may make use of his ability to play out wide or