Van Gaal gall galvanises Man United recruitment rally
In the immediate aftermath of Manchester United’s appointment of Louis van Gaal, attention turned to how many Dutch players the Netherlands manager would infiltrate Old Trafford with. As it happens, none so far.
At 9/2 to win the Premier League, on balance, considering the business they have done so far and the potential incomings yet to come, it could well be great value.
Van Gaal has worked wonders with his Netherlands side at the World Cup this summer, applying a 3-4-3 system that has got the best out of key players, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder. He has also been able accommodate Dirk Kuyt effectively in a right wing back berth.
Perhaps further testimony to Van Gaal’s ability he was also able to divide his time, devoting a portion towards his summer transfer strategy for United. As the Netherlands made it comfortably into the last 16, a deal for Atletic Bilbao’s creative midfielder, Ander Herrera was tied up for a fee believed to be around the £28m mark.
A couple of days later, left back Luke Shaw came through the door, arriving for £30m from Southampton, fresh off the back of England’s disappointing World Cup campaign.
As well as new signings, fans have been able to see just exactly how good their new coach is. First, he started with football. A 5-1 demolition of Spain in Netherlands’ first Group B World Cup game, showed everyone that the Dutch meant business, and that their boss was determined to go out on a high.
Van Gaal’s substitutions have been second to none. Bringing on winger Memphis Depay for centre back Bruno Martins Indi against Australia proved correct, as the PSV Eindhoven man notched the eventual winner. Against Chile in the final group match, he brought on Leroy Fer for Sneijder, and Depay for Jeremain Lens midway through the first half with the score still goalless. Needless to say both players netted, and the match ended 2-0.
In the last 16 against Mexico, he brought on forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in place of Van Persie for his first minutes of the tournament. Coming on with a quarter of the game to go, with the Netherlands trailing by a goal, the Schalke man notched the winner, stepping up to convert a last minute spot-kick, adding to Sneijder’s strike two munters earlier.
What followed next, was an epic encounter against Costa Rica in the quarter finals. Bringing on goalkeeper Tim Krul for the penalty shoot-out proved to be a tactical, and more importantly psychological, triumph. The Newcastle custodian was literally the ‘cock of the walk’, with his goading gamesmanship to Costa Rica’s contingent of penalty-takers before each one. Krul saved two, and won the Netherlands the match, as his teammates did the business from 12 yards out.
Subsequently Van Gaal’s successful exploits have seen United linked with a number of other players in the transfer market, and suggestions made that the manager could apply a 3-4-3 system at Old Trafford, as the media second-guess the personnel that could be brought in.
Shaw is perfect for the left wing back slot, and having three centre halves affords him the luxury of concentrating on what could develop into the best part of his game; supporting and attacking. with Antonio Valencia on the other side, this provides United with an exceptional balance.
There could also, finally, be some stability for Phil Jones after being utilised both in the heart of the defence and holding midfield so far in his career. Two more centre backs are thought to be on the priority list. It is understood that United officials are in advanced talks with Borussia Dortmund regarding a £30m acquisition of Mats Hummels. Stefan de Vrij, of Feyenoord, who has been a starter in the Dutch team at the World Cup could also be the subject of a bid, though nothing concrete has yet materialised.
Herrera was bought to start, with Van Gaal obviously seeing the central midfielder as a key component to the way he wants his team to play. A move for Juventus and Chile box-to-box midfielder Arturo Vidal is also being lined up, who could cost significantly north of £30m. He would complement Herrera’s style of play, providing energy and a tough tackling edge that the team has lacked since Roy Keane.
A deal for Real Madrid attacker Angel di Maria is also thought to be in the pipeline. Los Blancos want to raise finance to fund a move for Colombia and Monaco star James Rodriguez, and have offered the Argentine to a number of clubs. It is thought they are looking for a fee of £40m, though this could provide a stumbling block with United keen to offload players including Marouane Fellaini and Shinji Kagawa to raise funds.
Should the Red Devils achieve their transfer agenda, they will have crucially the spine of potentially a very good team, though there are many variables in place to each target, and no deal is as straight forward as it seems. However, United fans should not be worried on the evidence that Van Gaal has provided about his capabilities this summer.