After a superb pre-season under Van Gaal, it seemed all was well at Old Trafford. That was until Swansea City came to town on the opening day of the season to spoil the party. Following United’s 2-1 defeat, the critics were out again in their droves; the optimism of the past couple of weeks thrown away with one dire performance that demonstrated how the current United side have less cutting edge than a pair of Crayola safety scissors.
Terrible similes aside, it seems that there is only one major solution at Old Trafford. If changing the manager has not brought instant success, perhaps a change in personnel will do the trick. Fans will hoping this is indeed the case, yet before one even thinks about getting players in, it is also worthwhile to first cut adrift the deadwood.
Earlier this month it was reported that Van Gaal had told seven of his players they were surplus to requirements; namely Nani, Fellaini, Anderson, Zaha, Hernandez, Will Keane, and Rafael. With Nani the only outgoing player from this crop it seems that there is still time to reflect on the remaining players. Should these six be axed? Are there any others that should be joining them on the chopping board?
Not a United player, and never will be. Ultimately a panic buy from Van Gaal’s predecessor and has barley impacted on United ever since his overpriced £27.5 million move. Seemingly now used as the plan B option – lump it to Fellaini and hope something happens.
Showed promise in his early United days and was one of Ferguson’s big game regulars. The season United won their most recent Champions League, 2007-08, the Brazilian was vital to their success. However, he has lost his way since then and is now too far gone for United to wait on a sudden return to form.
Excellent young talent at Crystal Palace yet failed to impact in his first season at United. At the age of 21 there is still time for further development. Perhaps another loan spell? Nevertheless, a club cannot keep loaning players out forever; they must decide whether to stick or twist.
Decision: Keep (for now)
The Mexican is a bit of a fan favourite at Old Trafford and has scored a number of important goals for the club. His ability to convert even half chances marks him out as a different option in United’s strike force. However, he is likely to play second fiddle to Rooney and Robin Van Persie, and with Manchester born and bred Danny Welbeck also in contention, the one they call ‘little pea’ faces an uphill battle to get into the starting XI.
Another prospect for the future. However, if Hernandez isn’t getting game time, Keane won’t either. James Wilson and Tom Lawrence appear to be higher in the pecking order of hot young forward prospects at Old Trafford.
I have to say that I am not 100 percent sure why the Brazilian is on Van Gaal’s list of seven to be perfectly honest. Whilst Rafael can sometimes be a temperamental full back with a susceptibility to rash challenges, he is also tenacious and has a tremendous work ethic. What’s more he fits into Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 wing back system, that is, if he is preferred over Antonio Valencia.
These six players currently hold the spotlight as their United careers hang in the balance yet, there are a number of others that should heed warning too. Ashley Young, though somewhat revitalised in preseason, is another one that has not lived up to the promise his first showed under Martin O’Neil at Villa. Chris Smalling and Phil last ditch tackle Jones still need to refine their game to become the quality players everybody hoped for. Valencia has dipped in recent seasons, bottling under the pressure of the number 7 shirt and failing to recover ever since. Finally, Danny Welbeck, whilst not as extreme as some cases, also needs to define his game to clarify whether he will ever make it as a top class forward.
All these assessments may be perceived by some as ruthless; and they are, however that ruthless edge is just what United need at the present moment in time. There are too many players who have found their way into the United set up that would struggling to get any reserve games in years gone by. Pundits everywhere keep reiterating how the fear factor is no longer there. The current Manchester United team sheet presents no threat, more opportunity. If United really want to get out of their current predicament they must be brutal in their appraisals and call time on the current deadwood that litters the Old Trafford pitch. They must sign quality, and sign it quickly.
What do you think Louis Van Gaal should do with these seven players who could well be on their way out at Manchester United? Should even more players be nearing the exit door and who should the Dutchman be looking to replace them with? Let us know in the comments or on twitter @TBRFootball .