Louis van Gaal

Up for the chop

Louis van Gaal has rarely been a man to shirk responsibility. Less than a month into his Manchester United tenure the former Netherlands manager is set to call time on those fringe members of the squad who have failed to impress during the Reds’ successful summer tour. With no European football in the coming season, van Gaal is thought to be happier working with a relatively small squad, meaning that while United could yet add to the club’s playing staff before 1 September, a clutch of players will be told they have no future at Old Trafford.

Speaking ahead the International Champions Cup final against Liverpool on Monday, van Gaal admitted that he will tell affected players shortly after United touch down in Manchester this week. The Dutchman has used 26 players in four matches against Los Angeles Galaxy, Roma, Internazionale and Real Madrid, with a further three World Cup stars given the summer off. Not all of them will survive the summer as United players.

The vibe in van Gaal’s camp is positive after a string of good results on tour, but with the veteran likely to use a senior squad of 22-25 players, augmented by those youngsters not sent out on loan, his squad is already over-stocked. Meanwhile, executive vice chairman Ed Woodward is attempting to tie up deals for a senior midfielder and an experienced central defender, assuming van Gaal retains the 3-4-1-2 system he has deployed on tour.

“I have let all the players play so I know now more than I did before,” said van Gaal on Sunday.

“I shall make judgments after the tour. In football you have to judge. Always you have to give a chance to a player to make a transfer when you see that his perspective is not so high to play. You have to say it in advance. When you say it on 31 August it’s too late. I shall say to the players what I think after the tour.”

The Dutchman is well stocked in goal with David de Gea certain to start United’s opening Premier League fixture against Swansea City on 16 August. Anders Lindegaard remains an able deputy, although the Dane could actively seek a transfer out of the club with first team prospects limited. Sam Johnstone is set to be offered an opportunity to impress on loan at Championship level, but Ben Amos, now 24, has surely played his last game for the club.

However, United remains light in central defence, where Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones will start against the Swans unless the Reds buy in the next fortnight. Elsewhere, 21-year-old Michael Keane may well have done enough to earn a place in United’s first team squad for the coming season, although the youngster was criticised for giving away a penalty against Real Madrid on Saturday night. Tyler Blackett has a United future, although the 20-year-old may well find that he is sent away from Old Trafford on loan in the coming season.

In Luke Shaw and Rafael da Silva United’s new manager boasts two attacking defenders that should prosper at wing-back, although Antonio Valencia has been given a new lease of life under van Gaal on the right. The left side is more troublesome, however, where Ashley Young has twice appeared at wing-back on tour. The feeling remains that the Englishman’s defensive game will be picked apart in more competitive fixtures should Shaw not immediately take to life in the Old Trafford spotlight. Youngster Reece James impressed on tour and could yet be included in van Gaal’s squad as a left-field left wing-back.

Indeed, if United is short of a player at wing-back, then central midfield remains the club’s glaring weak spot. Ander Herrera has done enough on tour to suggest the Basque will become a fine addition to United’s squad, but doubts remain elsewhere. Darren Fletcher has impressed in the box-to-box role that many doubted the Scot could ever regain, although it has been four years since the 30-year-old completed more than 30 games in a season.

Meanwhile, Anderson will be sold, with the Brazilian having failed to impress during seven largely disappointing years at Old Trafford. The fee is likely to be less than £10 million as the player is entering the final 12 months of his United contract. The Reds will also take a fee for Marouane Fellaini if a buyer can be found before the transfer window closes, or farm the Belgian out on loan if a permanent move does not materialise.

However, there is less certainty over Tom Cleverley’s future. While the 24-year-old has regularly featured on tour – even captaining the Reds against Roma – the Englishman’s career has stagnated over the past two years. Michael Carrick will be retained, not least because of the Englishman’s experience, although the former international is unlikely to feature before the autumn sets in.

The future is less rosy for Nani, who is unlikely to feature in van Gaal’s plans at all, not least because the club has long since resolved to sell the errant Portuguese winger. Neither is the former Sporting player an obvious fit for any of the roles in the Dutchman’s new system.

Despite scoring twice against Madrid at the weekend there is little to suggest Young will feature in one of van Gaal’s three forward positions either, leaving the 29-year-old seeking a role at wing-back. Meanwhile, United will sell or loan Wilfried Zaha despite positive noises from the player that he is ready to make an impact at Old Trafford after a £15 million transfer in 2013.

In the number 10 role van Gaal is well served, as the Dutchman pointedly noted last week. Juan Mata has seemingly locked down the position, with Shinji Kagawa a talented deputy, although United’s new manager has mooted the idea of moving the Japanese playmaker into a deeper role. The club could yet take a fee for Kagawa if Borussia Dortmund, Atlético Madrid or any other suitor comes forward with a bid.

Meanwhile, Adnan Januzaj will enjoy a freer role than the touchline hugging winger dictated by David Moyes’ one-dimensional approach. Wayne Rooney could, at a push, drop into the deeper role seen under the Scot , although the Scouser has played in a more conventional forward role during the summer; one that may yet bring more out of a player who flattered and deceived under a Moyes’ fawning leadership.

Elsewhere, Jesse Lingard will be sent out on loan again, with his Old Trafford future in more doubt after the summer than before it, while United will probably accept bids for Nick Powell, who missed the tour through injury.

Up front Rooney and Robin van Persie will seemingly become United’s preferred strike pairing, although the Dutchman misses the season’s opener. In his absence Danny Welbeck will feature more often in a central role than in the past, although Javier Hernández has not yet been shown the Old Trafford door. Welbeck started each of United’s games on tour, with van Gaal seeming impressed by the Mancunian’s rounded game.

Elsewhere, a clutch of youngsters hope for a long-term future at the club even if van Gaal has no immediate first team requirements. Will Keane joined United’s tour party, but can hope for a little more than a loan move before the window closes. Angelo Henriquez will be sold or offered a fresh loan deal, while Tom Lawrence and James Wilson, who made first team debuts under Ryan Giggs at the end of last season, will be sent out on loan as part of their long-term development.

 

Rant’s verdict: United’s 2014/15 squad

Certain to feature: De Gea, Rafael, Shaw, Smalling, Evans, Jones, Carrick, Fletcher, Valencia, Herrera, Rooney, Welbeck, van Persie

Under scrutiny: Lindegaard, M Keane, James, Cleverley, Young, Kagawa, Hernández

Out-the-door: Amos, Nani, Anderson, Fellaini, Zaha

Loaned out: Johnstone, Blackett, Lawrence, Lingard, Henriquez, Wilson, W Keane

Required signings: wing-back, central defender, central midfielder

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Comments

    • Paul K says

      if nothing had changed from last season, you’d be right… but to make that statement you can’t have seen the pre-season performances… 3-5-2 with a high pressing game will make it difficult for any opponents, whilst creating a role for Mata behind 2 strikers is like having an extra player on the pitch compared to last year.
      - Go ahead and write them off… Alan Hansen.

      • Nishant says

        Agreed. Also the confidence boost and overall morale is a big factor which will only be bolstered by the relatively easy fixture list at the start of the season.
        Everything’s coming up Millhouse!

  1. Red Dave says

    Who’s this experienced CM we’re looking to sign? There’s one name in the forefront of my mind.

    Vidal.

  2. Subterranean Steve says

    Agree with most of the predictions, though I think that the ‘Under Scrutiny’ brigade will be kept on, if they want to stay.

    Ashley Young as a right-wing back over Valencia is a must! At least he can beat his man and get in a cross.

    (never thought I would be praising Ashley Young)

  3. Paul K says

    It’s staggering how once again, the same group of players can look under different leadership… ‘Young, Smalling, Evans, Fletcher, Rooney etc… all but written off after performances under Moyes (who?) are looking like top players again under Van Gaal’s new system and coaching.
    It may only be pre-season, but Utd are consistently playing better than at any time in the whole of last season.

    Doubters take note!

  4. Tom Parkinson says

    Our certain to feature squad looks a bit light. Think I count 12 players in there. Also missing Januzaj and Mata, which I presume is just an oversight.

    I’d like to see some of the youngsters kept on – how many times do they go to some shit club and their progress stagnates. I always believe in being surrounded by better players makes you better. The likes of Powell, Lingard and Wilson have a place in the squad in my view – all could play roles through the season and notch up 10-15 games in total.

    I don’t see how we can ship out any players in midfield, Anderson, Fellaini, Clevz etc, until we know for certain another CM is coming in. Think that would be suicidal.

    We also desperately need another CB, someone good on the ball. Previous seasons Smalling has infuriated me with his woeful distribution, but maybe under van Gaal he will get better. He is a good defender so has use. I just think we need a CB who can switch it from the back to the wing backs – like Silvestre’s beautiful sweeping left to right balls back in the day.

  5. Subterranean Steve says

    After such a successful pre-season tour, achieved by, in the main, a squad which has been around for a while, there is a current debate is about the value of retaining ‘the regulars’ as against offloading many of them.

    Fifteen months ago United won the League by eleven points and, if Fergie had stayed on, most fans would have expected a positive result the following season. Given the weakness in midfield and the ageing at the back, few would have expected a comfortable retention of ‘our trophy’ but a strong competitive effort (and a top four spot) would have been a forgone expectation for 2013/14.

    Instead we got Daisy Moyes and the sky fell in. Moyes sank beneath the waves and took the outfield players with him. Hence David de Gea became player of the year – the goalkeeper! When your keeper is ‘Player of the Year’, you know you are in trouble.

    Fast forward and we have van Gaal performing pre-season ‘miracles’, resuscitating ‘the regulars’ and showing last season’s no-hopers in the same bright light that shone in May 2013. So it is questionable whether he will offload lots of players. Some will choose to go because he can’t offer them first choice football and some because he likes to work with a smallish tight-knit squad. Given no European football this season, a reduction of some sort is to be expected. Massive changes? Possibly, but not that likely. Remember he is yet to actually buy a player. Shaw and Herrera were already in the pipeline.

    In the World Cup, Holland had three high class players in Robben, van Persie and Schneider and the rest were decent players who made up an excellent team. To see Dirk Kuyt performing admirably as a right wing-back would have surprised many. Whilst someone like Mourinho, the master tactician, gets his rich owner to buy in the best talent, I think Louis van Gaal, the man, prides himself on getting the best out of available, existing talent with a few quality additions. He is not fearful of giving youth a chance.

    The coming season looks like being the most interesting for several years, and I am really looking forward to it; something that would hardly have been predicted in mid-April. Don’t know whether we will win any trophies but life under King Louis will not be mundane or Moyesian.

  6. Jay Pritchard says

    The fact that Ashley Young doesn’t seem to be on the list of players to be shipped out just goes to prove that Van Gaal really is giving everyone a chance to prove themselves. A refreshing approach. I’d have been first in line to help him pack his bags a few weeks ago but fair play, anyone who knuckles down and works hard to improve their game deserves a clean slate Apart from Nani of course, he can do one!

  7. giggyjon says

    Personally thought that Tyler Blackett had a very solid tour and I can see him getting an opportunity to stay around if defensive signings do not materialise. He is not flustered on the ball and his distribution was far superior to that of Smalling and even Jones. He strikes me as a boy who has been training with his ears open, listening to the instructions of the manager and we know Louis likes this.

    Still hope that Nick Powell gets a chance to impress as well.

    What a difference in Rooney, he loses weight and hey presto we have a top player again. He will be going past people next!

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