Red Devils’ return to the Champions League is a welcome boost

Top-class: De Gea has been the team’s best player this season.

A SUCCESS! That’s how I rate Louis van Gaal’s first year in charge at Old Trafford.

Although, form-wise, Manchester United have struggled for most part of the season, the main objective of qualifying for Europe’s elite competition has been fulfilled and will hold them in good stead and coupled with a few more signings to come, things can only get better for the Red Devils.

With the signing of Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven to be completed next week, fans can look forward to next season with full of optimism. Memphis has goals in him, and is quick and strong.

The rumour mill has been in full swing this week with Gareth Bale, Mats Hummels and Nathaniel Clyne all being linked to Old Trafford.

It is no secret that Hummels and Clyne are both quality players and will be welcome additions to the squad.

Radamel Falcao, in my opinion, must be given more time to prove himself while Robin van Persie still has a season or two in him to shine.

Man Utd’s main rivals, Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal, will surely add world-class players to their squads, so it is imperative that we do the same.

To challenge Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Paris Saint Germain in Europe next year, LVG knows that he has to keep Real Madrid at bay from pinching goalkeeper David de Gea and signing a quality centreback.

Hummels will bring that stability to the defence and, together with Chris Smalling, has the potential to match the famous Steve Bruce-Gary Pallister and Nemanja Vidic-Rio Ferdinand partnerships that served the Devils so well over the last two decades or so.

On the home front, Man Utd welcome Arsenal in this week’s big game and there is plenty at stake for both teams.

Arsenal suffered an unexpected home loss to Swansea and will be eager to bounce back while Rooney and Co were fortunate to edge Crystal Palace last week, thanks to the brilliance of De Gea.

The Gunners loss last week gives hope to United to pip them to third place and an automatic berth to the Champions League.

There will no doubt be fireworks tomorrow as we will be eager to do the double on Arsene Wenger’s men in the league after winning 2-1 at the Emirates in November last year.

Coupled with the thirst for revenge after being knocked out by the Gunners in the FA Cup earlier this year, this game has the makings of another classic.

There will be goals in this game and my money is on United winning a thrilling encounter.

Ronald Koeman’s Southampton outfit take on Aston Villa with both sides aiming for the three points for different reasons.

The Saints are still within touching distance of a Europa League spot while in-form FA Cup finalist Villa will want to pull away from the relegation battle.

Tim Sherwood has revitalised the Villians, who before his arrival could not score goals to save their lives. Now, in a revitalised Christian Benteke, they have a striker who is in the form of his life.

I expect a close encounter at St. Mary’s with the home team edging this game.

Malaysia-bound Tottenham Hotspurs’s clash with struggling Hull is another game to look out for today.

Spurs are still in the hunt for a Europe League spot while Steve Bruce’s Hull are in the final relegation spot and in danger of joining QPR and Burnley in the Championship next season.

I expect a Harry Kane led Spurs outfit to come out comfortable winners at White Hart Lane.

Elsewhere, it will be all emotional at Anfield today when Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard makes his last appearance in front of the home fans when Crystal Palace visit.

Gerrard will forever be a Liverpool legend and will be remembered as the man who inspired the Istanbul comeback in the Reds memorable Champions League final match against AC Milan in 2005.

Football fans all over the world, especially in England, will be all misty eyed when he waves his goodbyes today.

Here’s wishing him a memorable and fruitful career in Los Angeles.

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