With a much anticipated war chest apparently available to strengthen Manchester United, in which way has Louis van Gaal spent his transfer finances previously, and where should he invest in the current team?
Recruited for his strong character, tactical awareness and disciplined training regime there is much to be admired about Van Gaal’s managerial career. Chief amongst his abilities is the uncanny knack for identifying, motivating and improving highly talented young players.
Since taking the helm of the Oranje in 2012, Van Gaal has given debuts to no less than 25 players, the majority of whom ply their trade in the Dutch league. With a confidence in his own ability, allied to a faith in his players to perform his familiar 3-4-3 formation, Holland waltzed through their World Cup qualification group, winning 9 out of their 10 games in addition to blooding younger Dutch talent.
Holland has also registered draws against FIFA’s top ranked Germany, Columbia, Italy and Portugal in friendlies.The Netherland’s only recent loss has been against neighbours and hotbed of talented young players Belgium: Eden Hazard and Adnan Januzaj being prime examples of the youthful vigour which has seen Belgium’s resurgence on the world footballing stage, currently 10th in the FIFA rankings.
Given Van Gaal’s talent-spotting skill we would hope he will be fully appraised of Belgium’s up and coming future hot list, such as Dennis Praet, Massimo Bruno and Michy Batshuayi.
In the meantime there is much work for Van Gaal to attend to in Brazil. Both Spain and Chile await the Dutch in their World Cup group. Either of these sides have the capability to derail the Dutch campaign. Skill and confidence within the Dutch camp should be high as a result of qualification, however an Achilles Heel and recurring feature of previous major tournaments for the Oranje has been the notorious in-fighting. If Van Gaal can keep his players level headed and avoid the well documented problems of previous World Cup and European Championship campaigns he will have managed well.
Hot on the heels of Van Gaal when he took the reigns of the German giants Bayern Munich in 2009 was Arjen Robben, who Van Gaal plucked from Los Blancos in that same summer for a mere £20m in the wake of Real Madrid’s fire sale. Also passing through the Spanish club’s exit door were Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart and Jan-Klass-Huntelaar, signalling an end to Real Madrid’s love affair with all things Dutch. Robben is probably the most highly prized player in the Bundesliga during season 2013-14. Having previously blossomed under Manchester United’s new manager at the Allianz Arena, Robben is best remembered for the pain, grief and tears he caused in 2010 when he sent United crashing out of the Champions League quarter final with that mesmerising winning volley. However at 30 years of age Robben is fast approaching his sell by date.
Much touted to Manchester United in the fabulously entertaining world of the summer transfer circus is Mario Gomez. Also signed by Van Gaal for Bayern in the summer of 2009 for the princely sum of £30m, Gomez toiled to record only 10 goals in his inaugural season following his switch from Stuttgart. During his second campaign, however, the striker hit the back of the onion sack on 28 occasions for Bayern to become the top goal scorer in the Bundesliga in 2011-12. Van Gaal had worked his magic. Having been offered less game time Gomez departed the Allianz Arena for the pleasures of Florence. During his last campaign in Germany he was replaced through the signing of Mario Mandzukic in 2012, tough Van Gaal type love.
During his stewardship Van Gaal also added Ivica Olic to the Bayern squad. Olic, who netted against United in both our Champions League quarter finals, and was the presumed back-up to the second highest goal scorer in the World Cup after Pele; the fabulous Miroslav Klose. Although Olic had the joy of winning with Bayern Munich the Croatian was despatched to Wolfsburg in 2012. For the German outfit there is a mentality of not sitting on their laurels. Bayern Munich is one well oiled machine; mechanical, mercenary and disciplined. Another example of Van Gaal management perhaps.
Why have Manchester United never signed a top class German national or indeed an Italian national? It’s a question that may be answered this coming transfer window with the recruitment of the cosmopolitan minded Van Gaal. In Toni Kroos, Bayern had an inexperienced German youngster who had been loaned out to Bayer Leverkusen before being brought back to the fold by Louis van Gaal. Making an indelible impact during the
2012/13 campaign, the 20 year old featured on 37 occasions for Munich bagging 9 goals. Although the German was less prolific last season, hitting the back of the net on 4 occasions from 51 showings in all competitions, there can be no doubting the great piece of recovery work carried out by Van Gaal in returning Kroos to his childhood love. While repeatedly linked to a Manchester United transfer, prising Kroos away from his boyhood club would be a coup, a stellar signing to beef up United’s weak midfield with undoubted quality. Does Van Gaal have the cache to become the first Manchester United manager to sign a German national.
Along with many Manchester United supporters I believe Luke Shaw is the one nailed-on certainty to be at Old Trafford next term. It is at Manchester United that Shaw will continue his learning curve alongside the incomparable Patrice Evra. Retaining Evra was a godsend. The Frenchman may not be getting any younger but he is United’s catalyst; the man who gets things done on the park. Shaw will provide serious competition for left-back starting spots and Evra will embrace the young man from Southampton when he arrives at United. Also heavily involved in Shaw’s development will be Van Gaal.
With no European stage next season for world class players to perform upon and with a loss of revenue in excess of £60m as a result of last seasons unforeseen catastrophe we should be asking what players Manchester United can attract?
As supporters we all want the best for the football club but should we not lower our expectations a degree, should we not step back and think of the United ethos? Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson would have gone back to the drawing board and searched the English, Scottish and Welsh leagues primarily for players with a recognised ability and attitude towards the game. Young players with a yearning to step up to the plate and play at the highest level with a club of the stature of Manchester United. Both iconic managers would have initially looked at home-grown talent to rebuild the football club from last seasons ashes. They would not have immediately aimed to recruit ready made world class players of the Reus, Hummels, Di Maria, Strootman, Schweinsteiger, Garay and Fabregas pedigree. Set against the backdrop of United’s prudent spending approach of the past a sense of realism should be demanded in who United can currently attract. Does Van Gaal possess the realism and prudence so vital to United’s current position?
A winner with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Van Gaal has the kudos. Clearly cantankerous and feisty, while at the same time brilliantly determined, he is box office gold for the media. His zero tolerance towards “no knowledge” football journos is legend. This is a man who lives, eats and breathes football. This is a football manager who thrives on embracing and nurturing young talent. The is a man who believes if you can catch them young you can coach the player into the Van Gaal philosophy and style of play. Be warned however, this a football manager with a track-record of not sticking around for any significant amount of time at any club he has managed, invariably departing from his responsibility’s leaving acrimony and ill feeling in his wake.
As Manchester United venture into unchartered territory with their first non-British manager we may well witness a new approach to training methods, tactics and player signings. On the subject of signings I ask this: would it not be wise for Manchester United to seriously review again the array of young British talent familiar with the British game, to slowly rebuild the foundations of the football club.
Investing the oft quoted sums of £100m to £150m in ready made World class players with no European football available for them to showcase their ability does not tally with rational thinking and Manchester United’s vision of a return to the glory days of never ending silverware and titles. Based on Van Gaal’s history the expensive surgery apparently being considered could prove terminal if the vision becomes the nightmare. When, not if, the Dutchman jumps ship in 2 or 3 years any future manager will be lumbered with Louis van Gaal’s media induced glamour signings to work with and, inevitably, to dispose of. And so the domino effect continues for any future custodian of United. The answer will likely be; rip it all up and start again.
Is it not pertinent that Manchester United should, prior to going hell for leather signing an array of untested, marquee named foreign players, consider young British football players ?
Let’s start by bringing midfield dynamo Nick Powell back to the club.
Let’s provide £17 million signing Wilfried Zaha a sustained opportunity to display the talents which saw him voted Championship Player of the Season during his time at Crystal Palace and earned him his transfer to Old Trafford.
Let’s secure the much heralded signature of Southampton’s Luke Shaw of whom we made previous mention a decade of talent in Shaw, for United that will appear inexpensive in the future.
Let’s consider high scoring 21 year old Danny Ings from newly promoted Burnley, 26 goals in all competitions and voted the Football Leagues best player last season in one recent poll.
Let’s review Derby County’s Will Hughes. The 19 year old midfielder while not yet a prolific goal scorer, netting just 6 goals in his first two campaigns for the Rams should be on Manchester United’s watch list. Consigned to another season in the Championship, Steve McClaren would likely resist any attempts to lure the golden haired boy wonder away from the Midlands. But if Manchester United came calling for the highly talented two footed youngster?
Let’s make a bold move for Tom Ince. His contract at Blackpool ends shortly and the 22 year old winger would provide excellent competition for Nani and Ashley Young. If Ince has interested Inter Milan should he not be on United’s radar. When Ince was having problems at Liverpool’s academy his father Paul of Manchester United and Liverpool fame, sought advice for Tom from Ryan Giggs who the youngster models his style of play on. A bargain to be had surely in Ince who, similar to other youngsters, would improve with the higher quality of players he would work alongside at United and the coaching provided at Carrington under the guidance of new gaffer Van Gaal.
There are numerous other young British players not currently on the lips of United fans or the United wanted list. At just 24 years of age Blackburn Rovers’ 6ft 2in forward Jordan Rhodes would be worth a relatively inexpensive £8m punt. The Scottish international will be featuring in the Premier League somewhere in the near future. You heard it here first. Rhodes is just one of many younger British footballers who, along with Ross Barkley and James McCarthy, that should be considered as candidates for a sensational United swoop.
Obviously all Manchester United fans want to be won-over by the Rolls-Royce type player that is repeatedly churned out for us to salivate over and imagine as the ticket to United’s success.
I believe we should consider the long-term implications of any drastic surgery associated with big-name / big-money signings and the long-term implications this could have on the club. Add our first foreign manager, whose football tactics and the formations we await to see, we are entering uncharted waters. Assuming Holland feature in the latter stages of the tournament how will Van Gaal integrate a myriad of new signings into the club after the end of the World Cup in mid July? Clearly the answer to that will have to wait as the Dutchman’s main priorities currently lay in Brazil.
With the 2014-15 season due to kick-off in early August this is not ideal planning in the short-term for the football club. Time is of the essence for United to act in securing an injection of improved quality.
The transfer window is, as we know, not indefinite. The securing of Louis van Gaal in itself should be the shot in the arm the football club needed. The time is now for all the United players to up their game and say to their new manager: ‘I want to continue to play for Manchester United and I will improve upon my performance after last seasons debacle.’
If the players don’t display this attitude to a disciplinarian of Van Gaal’s stature they will inevitably suffer an early Old Trafford exit as he wrestles to impose his authority on the United juggernaut.
A sprinkling of star-dust quality will be a fantastic sign of United’s intent to revitalise the team, but this should be tempered with growing the club through the youth policy of providing youngsters a chance at our club. Balance and perspective over radical knee-jerk reactions to one well below par season.
The critical consideration for Louis Van Gaal will be his assessment of what is needed at Manchester United to rebuild the team in his vision, selecting the players that will fit into the formation he intends to adopt for the club, basically round pegs into round holes.
Which should afford the opportunity for Shinji Kagawa and Juan Mata to shine and produce performances that saw these two International players as important cogs in the midfield at Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea, prompting United to spend nearly £50m on their transfer.
Van Gaal must initially ensure to play these two players in the positions and formation where they had enthusiastic acclaim previously, but as yet failing to live up to the billing at United.
Address the departures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand with equally high quality central defenders, should also be two of the managers priorities, in conjunction with recruiting younger players for the future as we have the witnessed the benefit of this policy last season, with the emergence of Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson to name two currently at United.
Which player – players do you think United should – will sign on this hoopla of a transfer window?
Contribution by RedScot.