Premier League: Manchester United season review - Van Gaal targets title after securing Champions League spot
Big things were expected of Louis van Gaal when he was handed a three-year contract to take over at Old Trafford following a dismal 2013/14 campaign which cost David Moyes his job.
Van Gaal was charged with the task of ensuring United were only absent from the UEFA Champions League for one season and the former Netherlands coach was given a huge transfer kitty to ensure the three-year European champions had every chance of securing a top-four finish.
After picking up only two points from their first four games, a new-look United side got into their stride and finished fourth to ensure they will have to win a two-legged qualifying match in order to feature in the group stage of the Champions League.
Here we take a look at the key moments of Chelsea's campaign.
A bullish Van Gaal declared "together I'm sure we will make history" when he was appointed by what he described as "the biggest club in the world" in May and it was not entirely out with the old and in with the new, as Ryan Giggs stayed on as his assistant.
Van Gaal then led the Netherlands to third place in the World Cup before starting his Old Trafford reign and said his challenge was to make United champions, but warned it would be difficult and stated "you have to analyse after one season".
NEW BOSS SPLASHES THE CASH
Van Gaal was given considerable backing by the United board, with Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind arriving at Old Trafford in big-money moves. But it was the £59.7million British record signing of Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid and Radamel Falcao loan move from Monaco which made the biggest statements.
Van Gaal said of Argentina international Di Maria: "There is no doubting his immense natural talent."
The sale of Danny Welbeck to Arsenal raised eyebrows, with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic also moving on along with the likes of Patrice Evra and Shinji Kagawa.
League One outfit MK Dons humiliated United by hammering them 4-0 in the second round of the League Cup in August as Van Gaal made an unconvincing start to his tenure, but the Dutchman said: "I'm not shocked because I know what can happen."
He responded to his critics by adding: "It's difficult for the fans to believe in the philosophy of Louis van Gaal but you have to do that because I'm here to build up a new team and a new team isn't built in one month."
SIX IN A ROW
After an indifferent start to his first role in England, van Gaal masterminded a six-match winning run to surge United up the table and a 3-0 home victory over Liverpool went a long way to endearing himself to supporters.
He still saw plenty of room for improvement after that triumph at Old Trafford, saying: "Six wins in a row is fantastic but we have to improve our playing style still and I'm saying that nearly every week."
ALLARDYCE 'LONG BALL' JIBE
Daley Blind rescued United with a late equaliser at West Ham in February, prompting Sam Allardyce to have his say on Van Gaal's style of play. He stated: "You might just criticise Louis van Gaal for playing long ball as much as you sometimes criticise me for being direct."
The United boss responded by saying: "You have to look at the data and then you will see that we did play long balls, but long balls wide, rather than to the striker. A ball to the forward striker is mainly called long-ball play. We are playing ball-possession play."
United took advantage of Manchester City's slump in form by thrashing their neighbours 4-2 at Old Trafford in April to take a giant stride towards a Champions League return and Van Gaal savoured his first Manchester derby victory.
"Maybe the best feeling but not the best performance because we started very badly, more or less like against Burnley, I believe," said the former Barcelona coach.
DE GEA SPECULATION RUMBLES ON
The outstanding form of David de Gea was key to United's charge back towards the Champions League, but speculation over the Spain goalkeeper's future would not go away with a move to Real Madrid reportedly on the cards at the end of the season.
Van Gaal said: "David de Gea shall not leave us so easily because we have a great club and he wants to participate. But, of course, he is Spanish and his girlfriend is Spanish and he can go to another great club. So it's difficult for him to decide."
'ROUGH SUMMER' AHEAD AS VAN GAAL TARGETS TITLE
With a top-four finish secured, Van Gaal set his sights on an assault on the title next season and after opting against keeping on-loan striker Falcao, the United boss vowed to make further changes.
He said: "Our selection is out of balance - we have managed to be fourth but we have to manage to be champions. We also have to improve our selection. It shall be a rough summer for a lot of players but I think a top club like Manchester United has to do that."