Reds depart as Van Gaal makes squad his own

August 30, 2014 Tags: Reads 26 comments
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There is little surprise in supporters’ obsession with the transfer market; new faces, new names and the hope of better results to come. In Manchester United’s recent decline this fixation has become all the stronger – a collective yearning that fresh blood will cure many of Old Trafford’s ills. Certainly, United’s summer spending will revitalise a squad that has been grossly mismanaged by Sir Alex Ferguson, David Gill and the Glazers over the past five years. An imbalance remains that Ed Woodward may fill in the days to come. It is, however, sales that will definitively mark the beginning of the Louis van Gaal era.

David Moyes, it was often said, worked not with his own squad but that of Sir Alex. Little surprise, perhaps, that so many turned on the former Everton manager when training, performances and then results did not go to the collective’s liking. So quick to bite the hand that fed them. One year on Van Gaal should face little of the mutinous atmosphere that engulfed Moyes’ time at Old Trafford. Not least because the Dutchman’s distinct gravitas will simply not allow for it. More importantly, though, for the significant squad evolution now underway.

Indeed, in the 72 hours before the transfer window closes, five United first team players could top up the 10 already granted a transfer, released or retired this summer. Yet more would be dumped but for the logistics, and economics, of eliminating high-paid players from United’s payroll.

In the months since Moyes’ sacking last April Rio Ferdinand, Nemnaja Vidić, Patrice Evra, Alexander Büttner, Nani, Federico Macheda, Ángelo Henríquez, Bebé, Ryan Giggs and Wilfried Zaha have left the club. Giggs retired at the age of 40, Henríquez, Nani and Zaha left on loan – with an assumption the trio will never play for United again – and the remaining six departed permanently.

The Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra axis provided over 1,000 games for United; Giggs another millenary again. The absence of that vast experience will certainly be felt. By contrast United will miss nothing of Büttner, Nani, Macheda, Henríquez, Bebé, or Zaha.

Büttner was never of requisite quality – a knowledge that most observers considered true less than 30 minutes into the Dutchman’s United début. Macheda, Henríquez and Bebé each failed to establish themselves at Old Trafford despite, at times, promising contributions, albeit very different in nature. Meanwhile, Nani, and to a lesser extent Zaha, will remain misfits unable to harness talent to more positive effect.

Add Anderson, Anders Lindegaard, Tom Cleverley – and one of Danny Welbeck or Javier Hernández – to the probable departures by Monday evening and the exodus contributes to a sense of chaotic revolution and not planned change at Old Trafford. That the club’s executive vice chairman is desperately putting together deals for Daley Blind, and perhaps a midfielder and defender, in the coming days says much for the lack of control in the post Gill-Ferguson era. There is something ‘just not United’ in the chaos of frantic negotiation, yet a pattern has clearly been set over the past two summers.

Anderson has spent much of the past seven years resembling a character in Waiting for Godot, with United supporters hanging, absurdly, to the notion that the Brazilian’s talent will flourish. It has always been a tragicomedy of the club’s own making. The final twist is likely to be a year-long loan to the continent, with a free transfer following in summer 2015.

Then there is Cleverley and Welbeck – a pair so often the subject of heated supporter debate. While Cleverley’s United career has been on hold for three seasons, Welbeck’s talent and background ensure local-hero loyalty remains. Neither, in truth, has the capacity to drive United to new heights, although far fewer supporters will miss Cleverley than Welbeck. The Longsight-born forward’s record is patchy, but with neither Wayne Rooney nor Robin van Persie guaranteed fitness, the 23-year-old will enjoy plenty of minutes if he stays.

Hernández is another whose career has stalled. Once the subject of serious transfer interest by Real Madrid, United will probably accept a bid of less than £10 million for the Mexican forward. Old Trafford’s top brass would fall over themselves to include the 26-year-old in any prospective deal for Juventus’ midfielder Arturo Vidal.

Meanwhile, Lindegaard has been offered a free transfer with little prospect that the Dane will usurp David de Gea in United’s goal. Ben Amos is set to occupy United’s bench while Lindegaard seeks pastures new.

Then there is the question of those who have outstayed a generous Old Trafford welcome: Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini. The former pair were complicit in United’s sub-par performance against Burnley on Saturday; in truth neither has played a positive role for United in some time.

The club would certainly take a fee for Young, although two years on the Englishman’s contract and £115,000-per-week in wages remain genuine barriers to moving on a distinctly limited player. Valencia, so long a duff product at Old Trafford, remains if only to cover for Rafael da Silva’s extended periods on the treatment table.

Fellaini’s fee, wages and injury present a similar roadblock; one that means Van Gaal may well have to integrate the Belgian into his squad this season. In each case a significant upgrade is required.

And in truth few of the potential departed will be seriously missed. Not, at least, in the way of greats from the past. United might even significantly benefit from slimming down and rebalancing a squad that consensus now concludes was not left fit for purpose by a retiring Ferguson. It is a damming indictment of the Scot’s succession planning.

Van Gaal, meanwhile, welcomes five new signings this summer: Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Angel Di Maria and Daley Blind. Woodward may yet land the experienced central defender and another midfielder Van Gaal seeks before the 1 September deadline. It would take the club’s spending well beyond £150 million this summer.

In this process of renewal Van Gaal is seeking not only to improve his resources but to make this ‘his team’ at rapid speed. There is little doubt the Dutchman will succeed.

In the meantime, Woodward is busy not only buying, but offloading United’s ample dead-wood. That’s in addition to negotiating new arrivals, driving United’s global marketing strategy, and leading a $2.5 billion organisation. Little wonder, perhaps, that the 42-year-old has found the market more than a little challenging over the past two years. Woodward probably needs some help; a director of football to sit between the boardroom and coach – and, most importantly, to so the heavily lifting in a busy transfer market.

Either way United supporters will be watching with intense interest in the coming days – Jim White, Sky Sports News, and all.


Glory Glory Reds - August 30, 2014 Reply

We have needed this clear-out for a few seasons. Must say it’s hard not to trust that #LVG is the right one to oversee it

Brent Townsend - August 30, 2014 Reply

grossly mismanaged by SAF and Gill? Really? Agree with most of rest but that comment is outrageous.

Ed - August 31, 2014 Reply

you think the squad is top quality then?

Alan - August 31, 2014 Reply

We are now being accused of trying to “buy success” because of the amount of money spent in this window. In truth this money should have been spent over the last 5 seasons by SAF to provide replacements for the outgoings this year. So, strange as it may seem I believe that SAF certainly has a lot to answer for.

Alun p - August 31, 2014 Reply

Totally agree with most, but SAF ‘grossly mismanaged’? More like a genius who proved his credentials time and time again. Pulled an average team to the height of the premiership. Remember, even with our underfunded team, the last two premierships we lost, under his tenure, we only lost on the last day!

Ed - August 31, 2014 Reply

Alun – nobody is arguing that Ferguson wasn’t a genius, or that his record isn’t the finest. The point – very obviously – is that he left a squad that was not as strong as it should have been. All that talk of leaving United in a strong position for the next man was bunk. Ferguson is not beyond criticism here. Anything else is just blind loyalty.

Nick - September 4, 2014 Reply

I completely agree with this! The whole ‘Fergie can do no wrong’ comment is a little boring. If anything I think he was a little selfish. Yes we won the league, but he knew where the holes were in the squad and should never have left the club like that. The fact that David Gill and Fergie departed with no real candidate in place and a squad on their deathbed is baffling.

the real deal - August 30, 2014 Reply

Van Gaal says he would like to sign Sergio Romero, the Argentina World Cup goalkeeper if Lindegaard does decide to move on. There is also a bid put in for de Jong but just have to see by the deadline.

abdulkareem omobolaji - August 30, 2014 Reply

Man utd plz united need cuadrado, William calvaho,de jong and benatia

Andrew - August 30, 2014 Reply

Rooney what a joke. 300k per week for what just another thieving scouter. Mata another waste of space. If we had Mouriniho as manager we wouldn’t have overpaid for such a slow ponderous lightweight. Moyes to blame for both these problems.

abdulkareem omobolaji - August 30, 2014 Reply

Plz do that signing before the tranfer close on moday we re nt happy. Because united played 3 matches and have 2 points it on fear plz do that signing quickly

Sikirulai - August 31, 2014 Reply


Subterranean Steve - August 31, 2014 Reply

I for one hope that Welbeck stays, he is a useful back up striker. Some or all of Cleverley, Chicharito, Young, Valencia and Fellaini can go, not to mention Anderson.

Anderson Luís de Abreu Oliveira. If ever you are ever looking for an example of the phrase ‘going from the sublime to the ridiculous’, then remind yourself of the 70th minute at Turf Moor when Di Maria was replaced by Anderson. A player who commands respect on the world’s stage was replaced by a face-pulling, fast-feeding freeloader. It was one of those ‘don’t know whether to laugh or cry’ moments. Actually, it wasn’t. It was no laughing matter. Why wasn’t the injured Di Maria substituted with the nearest thing United has to a like for like player, Adnan Januzaj?

Perhaps we should re-sign David Jones from Burnley.

Gabriel - August 31, 2014 Reply

True That LVG needs to change the system

The Goat - August 31, 2014 Reply

Something is very, very wrong if you can’t beat Burnley with the players we fielded. Blame whoever or whatever you like this is a total feckin shambles!!

One thing that I can’t understand above all else is why did we let our three most experienced defenders leave without clear replacements lined up. How did this happen??

Top 4 this season. I don’t think so.

subterranean steve - August 31, 2014 Reply

Don’t disagree with you but we did keep a clean sheet against Burnley with the ‘work in progress’ back line.

Two goals in three league games (plus MK game) against ordinary opposition, with the firepower United have. That is hard to take.

The Goat - August 31, 2014 Reply

The clean sheet yesterday is nothing short of miraculous given the sloppy defensive mistakes being made (especially by Evans). Nothing much seems to have changed from last season. Somethings wrong!

Fusilli Jerry - August 31, 2014 Reply

The unspeakable Valencia and Anderson get on the pitch whilst Januzaj does not. WTF???

Valencia was an absolute disaster each and every time Moyes played him as right back, there was a total correlation between his playing there and United being a defensive accident waiting to happen, whilst going forward, the only instance in recorded history of Valencia taking on his man was when he strangled Sterling in June and got sent off.

Anderson has conveniently got himself injured towards the end of every season for the last several seasons, thus ensuring his abysmal tenure has extended into an absurd 8th year.

I passionately believe that the retention of such players year after year has contributed every bit as much to the current situation as the continued failure to recruit the right players in the right positions. van Gaal is getting a total free pass from fans and media alike for now but his judgment was utterly flawed in keeping the dross around this close season, taking it to America and imagining that a few training sessions of his “philosophy” was going to make swans out of ugly ducklings. Meanwhile, because Januzaj didn’t make the trip to the States, he doesn’t get a look in in a system where van Persia, Rooney and Mata are undroppable yet look like they couldn’t score in a brothel.

What has Giggs been doing all summer ? Too scared to offer a different point of view i.e. this player has got to go, this player (Januzaj, Wilson) has got to start ? If this is phase of the club’s history where we drop 7 points in 9 against Swansea, Sunderland and Burnley and it’s ok, it’s in the name of transition, shouldn’t that be a transition to a club where young players get a chance to play and a reason to stay (hello Pogba, Rossi)/develop their potential, rather than transition to a club where selection is based entirely on fee and wages ?

The Goat - August 31, 2014 Reply

spot on!

RP - August 31, 2014 Reply

All things considered I feel it’s been a good transfer window for United. The signings we’ve bought in cover off key areas of weakness and the deadwood is finally being cleared out. It’s going to take a few more windows before we have a squad which can be considered worthy of a championship winning club though. I imagine buying & selling players in real life is a little more complicated than the same on championship manager – despite all the crazy expectations a lot of United fans have. Perhaps a Strootman or Gundogan in December and then a Coleman, Reus, Varane in the summer. For now now though we have a team who (injuries permitting) look pretty strong. Over to LVG to make there pieces fit. Clearly a work in progress at this moment!

Matt Everitt - August 31, 2014 Reply

Scarily accurate

vlad - August 31, 2014 Reply

Luis Nani’s got a team of bodyguards and a golden statue, hasn’t he..

Tom Parkinson - August 31, 2014 Reply

So with Hernandez off to wherever he is going, and chat that Van Persie needs a knee op and will be out for 4 months – surely there is no way we can let Welbeck go, particularly out on loan.

Subterranean Steve - August 31, 2014 Reply

The ‘established’ players lack hunger (sorry for stating the bleeding obvious).

It’s been all too easy for several seasons, money, status, lifestyle etc. Can anyone name an outfield player, whether young or experienced who has improved over the last three seasons? There isn’t one, not one!

The two bright moments of last season were the debuts of Januzaj and Wilson. Energetic, enthusiastic, naive and instinctive, just the opposite of their predictable, automaton millionaire team-mates. Januzaj went on to have a decent enough season despite Moyes trying to turn him into Ashley Young and Wilson had just the one game late on.

Surely these two would be key figures in van Gaal’s brave new world, where kids would get their chance and overpaid, underperforming egotistical ‘stars’ had better watch out. Well it hasn’t happened yet. Despite as bad a start to the season as could be imagined, the only kid who has made the starting eleven has been Tyler Blackett. That because he is the only left-sided defender available with Shaw, Evra and Buttner, injured or gone.

Against Milton K, where van Gaal selected his second eleven, Januzaj and Wilson were on the bench. Not as first teamers being held in reserve, but as back up for the likes of Kagawa, Welbeck and Hernandez. Januzaj and Wilson were understudies to the understudies!

Kagawa has gone, probably followed by Hernandez so Januzaj and Wilson will climb the pecking order. Unfortunately, it still leaves them behind the likes of Di Maria, van Persie, Rooney, Welbeck, Mata and the wallys on the wings.

Jade Rickerts - September 1, 2014 Reply

Only 2 points from 9 and already fans are going nuts. To be honest its not that bad. I know last season everyone was saying give Moyes time. Well this season we have to do the same. Give LvG time. The squad has gone through major surgery. It’s going to take some time for the squad to gel and start kicking into gear. It also takes time to get rid of the deadwood that has been stealing a living all this time. Also, other teams that challenging for top 4 finishes also dropped points, except Chelsea. Not an absolute disaster yet.

subterranean steve - September 1, 2014 Reply

quote “’s not that bad.”

You must have low expectations. How long should it take for van Persie, Rooney, Mata, Valencia and Young to gel enough to create a shot or two on target against Burnley?


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