The transfer window closed this week with the only business being conducted at Old Trafford involving player exits – aside from a couple of bizarre purchases destined for little more than the under-21 team. Heading out the exit door: Brazilian misfit Anderson, who returned home to Internacional on a free transfer. Meanwhile, Darren Fletcher signed for West Bromwich Albion and Wilfried Zaha completed a permanent return to Crystal Palace.
Louis van Gaal’s now slimmer squad remains in a four-way race for third and fourth places in the Premier League, with Southampton and Arsenal then Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool all within five points of Van Gaal’s side. There is little guarantee the Reds will make the Champions League, although the Reds remains marginal favourites. After all, it has been anything but a consistent season, in part disrupted by injuries, in part by the vagaries of Van Gaal’s ever-changing approach.
The transfer window is about resources though – the real question is whether Van Gaal’s now fully-fit squad has enough to ensure a spot in the top four without additions. After all, while the Reds’ seemingly shaky defence boasts the third best defensive record in the league, it is up front where goals have been hard to come by in recent weeks. The balance between the two is yet to be found by United’s manager more than six months into the role.
In contrast a number of United’s rivals strengthened during the January transfer window. Arsenal signed 24-year-old Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista, while Southampton added two talented midfielders in Filip Djuricic and Eljero Elia. Liverpool and Spurs, like United, played a more circumspect game by adding little over the winter.
It leaves the season on the edge – and Van Gaal in the spotlight, with supporters asking the questions…