There has been much speculation this summer as to who the club should sign. After last season’s farce of a transfer window, it is easy to empathise with fans who are getting nervous at the prospect of a repeat. Things, for me at least, seem different this summer.
While it looks extremely unlikely that we’ll acquire anyone before the World Cup, as was the plan, I expect van Gaal to get some decent business done after the World Cup.
Just as important as signing new players though is the need to do a clean out of the squad. David Moyes’ ten months in charge was painful viewing but one positive it did bring was the realisation that the squad needs vast improvement.
This may not sound like a positive but surely it’s better we found out when we did that the squad isn’t truly good enough. Had Moyes (and the players) not failed so miserably it might have taken longer for this realisation to sink in. That’s not to say that it will be much easier to sort things out than it would be in a year or so.
The squad still needs a pretty significant overhaul, and that starts with getting rid of those who so woefully under performed last season. The list of players that probably should go is a long one; Tom Cleverley, Chris Smalling, Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young are certainties for me (although I don’t believe van Gaal will sell Smalling). Michael Carrick, too, had an extremely poor season by the standards he’d set recently while Alexander Buttner remains entirely and hopelessly out of his depth. There has been talk of Javier Hernandez being sold. Personally I wouldn’t sell him, I feel that if he’s given a run in the team he will score goals.
However, van Gaal’s thinking may be different so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mexican leave after the World Cup. Nani and Antonio Valencia also deserve criticism for their poor displays not just last season but for a number of seasons but with van Gaal’s love for wingers, he may just fancy keeping hold of these two, or one of them at least.
Last season for Tom Cleverley was the culmination of quite a few seasons of gradually worsening performances. You’d think you’d seen the worst of Cleverley, but no! You see his name on the team sheet and hope against hope that today will be the day he proves everyone, including you wrong. But no, he proves you and all the other critics right again and again with performances that make you wonder how in the name of the Lord’s horizontal pass he ever made it close to the first team.
This summer has already seen him being found out by former fan Roy Hodgson, the England manager. Cleverley will not feature in this summer’s World Cup and rightly so. It probably won’t take van Gaal very long to realise that he shouldn’t feature in United’s team next season either.
Like I said above, I don’t think Chris Smalling will be sold by the club. While I don’t particularly rate him – consistently poor passing, hesitant, as well as having what can only be described as a phobia of high balls over the top – I reckon, given his age, van Gaal will hold onto him and give him another season.
Van Gaal has faith in his own ability to improve the fortunes of player playing under him, and he may like the challenge, as daunting that it is, that Smalling unwittingly poses.
Although he only arrived last season and remains a fixture in Belgium’s squad, Marouane Fellaini proved in his short time at the club that he hasn’t got what it takes, mentally or technically, to perform at the level required. I was in the camp of fans who were open to the idea of him joining. Obviously the manner in which it was done was beyond a joke. But he was bought, so worth giving him a chance. Sadly however, Fellaini consistently flattered to deceive when given the chance. He was awkward, uncoordinated and just dirty. United fans are known to hold a lace in their hearts for geniuses with a flair for violence; Cantona and Keane come to mind, but have no time for someone like Fellaini; all/mostly violence with none of the panache or control for it to accompany. Fellaini, quite simply, was never a United player. He was an act of desperation on the part of Ed Woodward and David Moyes, an expensive accident.
While van Gaal is known to have a thing for wingers, I can’t see what if anything he’ll see in Ashley Young. It’s a pity, Young whenever he appears off the football pitch at all seems to be a thoroughly stand up guy, but he’s just not up to it.
Aside from the awful, awful diving (you might be able to excuse it slightly if it wasn’t so appalling in execution) he’s a one trick pony. He receives the ball on the flank, turns and runs, stops, check in, stop, checks back, loses the ball. I’ve seen more flair and imagination playing my nephew on FIFA and after three years at the club, much like with Cleverley and Fellaini it is glaringly obvious that he doesn’t require the imagination, skill or mentality to succeed at Old Trafford.
Of course, signings are hugely important. But for me, clearing out the deadwood in the club is a task of equal significance. Sending these overpaid and sub-standard players to the big footballing farm in the country (where they’ll get to run around all day, honest) will not only release funds for the wage bill, it will rid the club of the air of accepted mediocrity that’s been at the club for a number of years. One that must be exorcised if the club is to reclaim its seat at the top table of English football.