Despite opening day defeat Van Gaal still the man to lead United out of the doldrums
When David Moyes was selected as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor at Manchester United last year, the appointment suggested continuity and an ambition to keep the clubs family identity preserved.
A year on, times change.
A dreadful seventh-place finish and cup exits to Swansea and Sunderland later, Moyes was shown the door.
Today, Dutchman Louis van Gaal sits at the Old Trafford throne, and his appointment represents an entirely different landscape.
He’s a winner - In the same mould as Jose Mourinho - when you appoint him, he’s coming to win titles.
Van Gaal has won leagues in his homeland of Holland with Ajax and AZ, in Germany with Bayern Munich and in Spain with Barcelona – he has a proven pedigree and can handle the pressure of delivering for the biggest clubs.
For all his managerial prowess, could he really work miracles with the same squad that faltered Moyes so embarrassingly?
This was answered in the game against Swansea with united losing 2-1, yes key players were missing but it also highlighted the need for fresh blood.
In truth, Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement may have been not have been as out of the blue as one might suggest.
Is it possible that Ferguson wanted to go out on a high, not believing his ageing squad could fend off the rising stars of Chelsea and Manchester City?Perhaps.
Over this summer, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdiand, Nemanja Vidic and Ryan Giggs, all bona fide members of the ‘old guard’ have in one way or another left Old Trafford.
Are the likes of Tom Cleverley, Chris Smalling and Rafael capable of filling such illustrious voids? Last season would indicate that they can’t at this juncture, certainly. The likes of Adnan Januzaj, suggests different.
One of Moyes major mistakes was his failings to strengthen in the transfer market, only bringing in Maroune Fellaini for £27.5m last summer. The fee was supposedly some £10m more than a release clause he was available at earlier on in the summer.
By the time Juan Mata arrived in January, the damage was done.
Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw represent the young and exciting additions so far this summer, but United fans and indeed Van Gaal will know they need more reinforcements in the defensive positions to move forward this term as was highlight all so clearly on Saturday.
Van Gaal is famed for his brand of football that became so successful with Ajax in the 90’s and helped many young stars turn into household names.
As United have sported in pre-season, Van Gaal prefers a 3-5-2 formation, which would suit the partnership of Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, whilst accommodating Juan Mata.
Only Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are the recognised centre-halves at the club and possibly a deep-lying Michael Carrick, which will simply not be enough moving forward if they intend to compete at the very top again.
Should Van Gaal splurge on a centre-half or two, there’s no reason the Red Devils can’t be considered genuine contenders.
United’s pre-season form, which includes wins over Real Madrid and Liverpool amongst others, certainly suggests they’ve found their winning culture once more – and Van Gaal would accept nothing less.
Free agents who could make their way to La Liga With the 2014/2015
La Liga season just over three weeks away, every team will be actively searching across the transfer market to find players who can take them to the next level. Barcelona and Real Madrid have already acquired multi-million pound signings to re-confirm their financial dominance in Spain, but other teams have also been active in preparing themselves to fulfil their respective objectives.
The next three week may be crucial for newly promoted Eibar, Cordoba and Deportivo who face a considerable step up from the Liga Adelante, and could bring in players that are ready for the challenge. Looking at the free agent pool may be the best option for La Liga teams, who are working on a tight budget and do not have the financial muscle that the top teams possess, to strengthen and be competitive. A potential new wave of good quality players will not only further enhance La Liga’s position as one of the strongest domestic leagues in Europe, but also provide Spanish football enthusiasts and punters with yet more wonderful, yet unpredictable, action on the pitch. New signings often have an impact on La Liga odds at both ends of the table, with several free agents offering themselves as a great alternative to spending considerable amounts of money.
Good quality goalkeepers are often wasted on the substitute bench as they spend a number of years as understudy to the club’s number one when they could be a regular elsewhere. This applies to Marco Amelia who, despite proving himself as an excellent shot-stopper and reliable pair of hands during his time at Livorno and Palermo, has spent watching Christian Abbiati remain first choice at AC Milan. A major reshuffle at the San Siro saw Amelia released from his contract, with the 32-year-old keeper now looking for a new club.
Amelia would be an excellent signing for a number of clubs in La Liga, in particular Malaga who lost first-choice keeper Willy Caballero to Manchester City. Levante may also look to Amelia if Keylor Navas leaves for pastures new following his wonderful performances at the World Cup, while Atletico Madrid could do much worse than look at the Italian as a solid number one or understudy to Jan Oblak. Losing Thibault Courtois will be a blow for Diego Simeone’s side, but a number of top signings, including Antoine Griezmann and Guillerme Siquero, has put Atletico at 10/1 to retain their La Liga crown.
Falling short in the three-horse race for the title last season was always likely to result in a major restructuring process at Barcelona from top to bottom. Former player Luis Enrique has returned to the club as a fresh, vibrant manager who may return the glory days to the Nou Camp with Barcelona back at 11/10 to win the title, but his vision for the club did not feature Jose Pinto who is now a free agent. The 38-year-old goalkeeper may be at the latter end of his career, but is more than capable of being a number one for the likes of Cordoba, Eibar and Elche. Pinto offers considerable experience at the highest level which could benefit the two La Liga newcomers and prevent them from going straight back down. Elche, on the other hand, did wonders to stay up last season and could turn to Pinto to further solidify their place in the Spanish top flight.
Scoring goals is the greatest quality to maintain in football, with strikers carrying the weight of responsibility to contribute in front of goal. La Liga is often accustomed to a fast-paced, short passing game that allows teams to manoeuvre the ball from defence to attack in an instant, although a physical approach is also effective. Standing at 6ft 4, Guillaume Hoarau is the typical target man striker – physically and aerially strong with the ability to roughen up defenders and bring others into play by being the focal point for attacks. The tall Frenchman is available as a free agent after a rather disappointing second spell at Bordeaux, and would represent good business for any La Liga team, namely Malaga, Levante and Getafe, who lack a powerful, goal-scoring striker.