We all knew Louis would have a tough time at United. The squad he inherited, along with the cloud hanging over the club after the disaster that was last season, meant that the Dutchman had a much-publicised rebuilding process at Old Trafford. The arrivals of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera before his arrival created the impression that we’d be seeing a lot of new faces at the club, a notion exacerbated by the ramblings of Mr. Ed Woodward. It’s been far from the case, however. Despite saying that the club can “do things in the transfer market that other clubs can’t”, Woodward has failed to identify and sign any players for van Gaal. Remember, Shaw and Herrera, though both good signings who’ve looked promising early on, were Moyes’ targets who van Gaal gave the green light to sign. There may be action going on behind the scenes but as of yet, none of the manager’s own targets have been signed.
At this stage most fans and probably the manager himself expected the club to have signed a few more players to offset the numerous departures that have occurred since the end of last season. But indeed, it looks likely that we’ll see even more departures quite soon to go along with those of Rio, Vidic and Pat, among others. This is a positive, to an extent. The club had a lot of deadwood, and for van Gaal’s regeneration project to take place and be successful, that deadwood needed to be shed from the squad. But reinforcements are needed, more now than at any point in the summer. Hypothetically speaking, with a clean bill of health and everyone fully fit most United fans would be tentatively confident coming into the new campaign. There’s reason for optimism after all; Dave looks more assured than ever, Youngy and Valencia look better than they have done in yonks, Herrera has been a revelation already and on top of that, Reece James and Tyler Blackett have shone in pre-season, making claims for inclusion in the club’s Premier League squad. That would all be great, if we had a clean bill of health, the reality though is rather different and more grim.
Michael Carrick’s absence places huge pressure on the resurgent Darren Fletcher to play the majority of the club’s matches for the foreseeable future. The Scot has been extremely impressive since van Gaal took over but after his problems with illness and given his age, can he really be expected to consistently perform in a midfield role for most of the season? The club is already short in midfield, hence the protracted links with Juve’s Arturo Vidal, and with little word on incoming transfers, we may even see a weaker midfield unit for United this season than last term. That’s not to say it won’t perform better, it would take little to do so, but it’s hardly the new dawn that Woodward had suggested was coming.
Add to this the news that Luke Shaw, Jonny Evans and Antonio Valencia are doubts for our Premier League opener against Swansea and the threadbare nature of the squad in its current state becomes glaringly apparent. As things stand, either Michael Keane or Blackett may have to deputise in Evans’ place and Young filling one of the wing back roles. Hardly a line up to get the pulse racing.
That is not to say that we’re doomed. More than likely new signings will come; Marcos Rojo of Sporting Lisbon appears close to a move, and in time the injured players will become fit and the squad will become properly integrated and familiar with van Gaal’s set up and way of training and playing. Either way though, van Gaal faces one of his toughest tasks as a manager. Then again, he probably wouldn’t have it any other way.