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Five waning Manchester United stars who could reignite under Van Gaal

| 08.07.2014

As the World Cup draws to a close, attention begins to shift towards the drama of the summer transfer window. So far Manchester United, 9/2 to win the Premier League, and odds-on at 8/15 to secure a top four finish, have been linked to a myriad of superstars.

Rumours persist of imminent moves for Mats Hummels and Arturo Vidal, with Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera already recruited for the new Old Trafford revolution.

Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal, however, is renowned for fixing squad problems from within, so Coral takes a look at which existing, out-of-favour United stars could shine for the inspirational Dutchman.

Antonio Valencia

Some pundits were surprised by Van Gaal’s decision to renew the contract of resilient wideman Valencia, who hardly fits the mould of excellent technical players that the former Bayern and Barcelona boss has previously had at his disposal.

The rapid right winger has faced criticism over the past few campaigns, suffering a severe dip in form after being crowned Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year in 2011/12. Much-maligned for his lack of a left peg, Valencia’s selection in crunch games has often been due to his pace, power and defensive efforts, rather than attacking prowess.

Under Van Gaal, the Ecuador skipper, who has already featured as a right back for the Red Devils, could find himself truly reinvented as a flying full back, suitable for 4-3-3 or 3-4-3.

With Rafael proving to be injury-prone, and often suffering from a lack of discipline in key moments, a position in the starting XI could be there for the taking.

Jonny Evans

With legends Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand having already departed Old Trafford, Evans is currently the ranking centre back for United. With eight years of experience under his belt, the Northern Irishman should have been ready to slip effortlessly into their shoes.

Doubts still remain over his ability to do so, however, with the Red Devils defence haemorrhaging 43 goals in their last Premier League campaign, when Vidic and Ferdinand featured little.

If Evans can stay injury-free, this season could be a chance for him to finally cement a regular starting berth, with Van Gaal favouring the type of build-up from the back that the United academy product is adept at instigating.

A new centre half recruit seems likely, with Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all injury-prone, but the 25-year-old could impress with his ease in possession, to edge out his clubmates and steal a spot in the first XI.

Michael Carrick

Carrick, omitted from Roy Hodgson’s squad, was missed by England at the World Cup. His elegant passing, and composure on the ball, would surely have given the disjointed Three Lions midfield another dimension.

His form under David Moyes last term, however, was undeserving of international selection, with the usually reliable midfielder a shadow of his former self.

At 32 years old, and lacking in pace and mobility, many managers would shelve Carrick, but the former West Ham youth product could still be a key cog in Van Gaal’s team.

If used sparingly and given an adequate, more tenacious partner, after being overplayed in recent years due to a lack of alternative options, Carrick could still have plenty of gas left in the tank as the Dutchman’s director from deep.

Shinji Kagawa

A former Bundesliga Player of the Year, Kagawa has failed to live up to expectations for both United and Japan. However, the former Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder has useful qualities that Van Gaal can extract.

Versatile, hard-working, intelligent and smooth in his link-up play, the pass master possesses guile and inventiveness that the Red Devils have so far failed to harness. Impressive cameos alongside Juan Mata hinted at his ability to turn a so far disappointing stint in Manchester around, but the partnership was not allowed to flourish.

Kagawa became a casualty of Moyes’ determination to shoehorn his superstars into the side come what may. In contrast, Van Gaal, as shown by his decision to sub-in Tim Krul for a penalty shoot-out, has the boldness and the bluster to make the big decisions, and will stick by his system.


Nani has been somewhat of an enigma for the Red Devils in the seven seasons he has represented the club. Incredibly inconsistent, yet ridiculously talented, he is perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of recent years.

United have an excellent record of developing young plays, but Nani has failed to hit the heights he once threatened to be capable of.

A renaissance under Van Gaal is entirely possible, and with the tricky winger able to play any position in attacking midfield, suffering from niggling injuries, and having a propensity to dive, parallels can be drawn with Arjen Robben.

Perhaps the two cannot be compared in terms of raw talent or current performance levels, but Van Gaal has worked wonders with the Dutch winger, who has excelled in a free role. He could now attempt to do the same with Nani, who still has much untapped potential.



Holly Thackeray

Holly is a member of the content team, and can often be found on the sports desk writing about favourite topics Serie A and East Asian footballing nations. A recent darts convert, she is also a fully-fledged member of Barney's Army and a proud Leeds-born Manchester United fan.