Despite spending a ton of money over the summer, there are still key areas that Manchester United and Louis van Gaal are yet to address that could be the fine line between success and failure in this season and the seasons to come.
Manchester United spent in excess of £150m last summer on Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, Angel di Maria, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Radamel Falcao (reported £6m loan fee for one year), but those players have either had largely hot and cold periods of form this season or been injured. United’s play often still looks disjointed and incomplete when they play teams that either press extremely well or just put ten men behind the ball. For all the money spent, they still have holes that are needed to be fixed as soon as possible. If money is really no object, as executive vice chairman Ed Woodward has claimed publicly and to investors at the club’s AGM, then it is essential that these holes get filled in the coming summer transfer window. Those positions in question are central defense and a box-to-box midfielder.
Louis van Gaal’s style of play involves the centre backs bringing the ball out of the back and players interchanging positions as and when it’s needed with quick and precise passing. What he has witnessed since his arrival has been erratic passing from the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones when they have played. This ends up in them losing the ball and making a rash challenge that either results in an injury or gives away a needless foul. There is no leader in the back to tell them when they are making mistakes such as those, but there are those available who can perform that duty and show better technical prowess.
Names such as Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels and Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte have come up and both of those would better suit the requirements of the modern day centre-back that United need. Laporte is obviously the more risky option considering his lack of experience and lack of a completely polished game as yet. Hummels, however, not only has the calming presence and composure that United need at the moment, but also the track record at both club level but also for his country. His price tag is said to be anything up to £40m, but given that he is still only 26 years old and with the current situation he has in Dortmund with his club struggling this season, it may be better to go with the safer option instead of gambling on a top prospect who might fail to settle. United need instant improvement, not one for the future, particularly if the price is similar for both players.
The other area in need of attention is the engine room of the team; the middle of the park. United have not been able to replace the ever-so-important Roy Keane following his departure around a decade ago. Someone that can take a game by the scruff of the neck and is able to support both the defense and the attack in an instant. Someone that can make dangerous runs from his own half to the opposition half’s 18-yard box is needed. The club has been linked with the likes of Arturo Vidal, former player Paul Pogba and Kevin Strootman in the last year. It has been public knowledge for a while that Juventus will likely have to sell one of Vidal or Pogba if a big enough offer comes in for either of them given their difficult financial situation. The former’s injury record should be considered seriously, though.
Strootman may be a little trickier to remove from his club, Roma, but his connection with compatriot Louis van Gaal could work in the Old Trafford club’s favor. It has been well documented that Van Gaal had to change his whole approach for his Netherlands side at last summer’s World Cup following Strootman’s serious knee injury that of course ruled him out of the entire tournament in Brazil. That faith in him combined with a clear path to the end of the Serie A season for the midfielder could lead to a move.
If the Red Devils make it back to the Champions League this summer, then these purchases need to be done fast to ensure the progress under Van Gaal continues smoothly. The team’s holes have been exposed many times this season, particularly against Arsenal at the Emirates and Southampton at St. Mary’s, despite winning both matches. United were outrun and outplayed in both matches and other teams have displayed similar tactics to make United’s players often pass backwards or sideways when under pressure. Even Cambridge United exposed those holes in their home FA Cup fourth round 0-0 draw (which you could have got some great odds on with the bonuses http://promo-code.co.uk) despite most of the United team including superstars that have played in many of the biggest games in world football.
When these issues are fixed, then progress is likely to be a little quicker and Van Gaal’s hopes of achieving great success at United might come true.