Former boss David Moyes made two signings in his short reign at the helm of United, Juan Mata from Chelsea and Marouane Fellaini from Everton. Despite the formers obvious class and ability, neither can be considered quality signings for United.
Juan Mata’s best position is the same as club captain Wayne Rooney’s. The Spaniard is largely ineffective playing out wide and it is quite some task trying to get the best out of both while maintaining balance in the team. Add Japanese Shinji Kagawa to the mix and Van Gaal has 3 excellent players to choose from for the number 10 role, which is not necessarily a good thing, depending on how you look at it.
Marouane Fellaini cost Manchester United a then club record £27.5 million. The Belgian international endured a tough debut season at Old Trafford, scoring 0 goals in 16 league appearances after scoring 11 for Everton the season beforehand.
Louis Van Gaal’s only transfers to date have been left back Luke Shaw for £30 million from Southampton, midfielder Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao for £29 million and Argentine defender Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon for £16 million, with Portuguese winger Nani heading the other way on a season long loan.
Manchester United lost Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra during the summer, with the three heading to QPR, Inter Milan and Juventus respectively. All three are experienced heads who were valued highly by United fans.
Louis Van Gaal has cash to splash, so what areas do United need to invest in?
Well, their attacking array of talent is undoubted, with a fully fit Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata all capable of scoring 40+ goals a season.
Kagawa can also come in and perform at a high standard should Mata or Rooney pick up an injury, given he is deployed in his favoured number 10 role.
Javier Hernandez is a good goalscorer if Robin Van Persie’s last seasons injury problems trouble him again this year. Danny Welbeck can also come in and play upfront, if necessary. I do not think Van Gaal needs to worry about his strikers or number 10’s.
Central midfielders are a huge concern for United, with Carrick, Cleverley and Fellaini all under performing last year. Darren Fletcher is back and Ander Herrera has been added, but a new defensive midfielder is pivotal to Van Gaal’s ambition of a return to the top four.
In the 2-1 defeat to Swansea at the weekend, Ki was allowed far too much space and time to run in between the United defence and midfield, with Darren Fletcher nowhere to be seen.
United should invest some good money in this area, with Vidal their number one target for some time now, although a deal looks unlikely. An alternative could be A.C Milan’s Nigel De Jong, who gets stuck in consistently and will offer protection for the centre backs, plus the fact he has worked with the new Manchester United boss in the Netherlands side.
A world class option is the requirement though, with Sami Khedira, Paul Pogba and former Arsenal man Alex Song probably the ideal candidates.
That brings me onto my next point, centre halves. It is no doubt Van Gaal already has options, with new signing Marcos Rojo, the heavily criticised Chris Smalling, versatile Phil Jones and Northern Irishman Johnny Evans to choose from.
None of the above are fit to be labelled “world class” though, I am not saying world cup runner up Marcos Rojo is not a good signing, but I feel a world class centre back to partner him would really beef up United’s defence, which is vital.
Long term target Mehdi Benatia could still sign, but given that the Moroccan international has four years left on his current contract at Roma, a deal looks either unlikely or very expensive.
Other options could include Daley Blind, who fits into Van Gaal’s system in the Dutch national team, Jan Vertonghen, who expressed his desire to leave Spurs last season and World cup winner Mats Hummels, who is reportedly keen to challenge himself at a new level abroad.
It is without doubt that Manchester United’s main problems are defensively, both in defensive midfield and centre defence.
In my opinion, the 3 best targets to address these issues are;
Sami Khedira – Defensive midfielder who will sit deep and offer cover for his centre halves.
Mats Hummels – World class and experienced centre back at just 25 years old, excellent in a tackle and a threat from set pieces.
Daley Blind – A versatile defender who can also play in midfield, knows how to play in Van Gaal’s system.