Since the arrival of Louis Van Gaal, Manchester United have spent 148.3 million pounds on the acquisition of players. That number is exclusive of the potential 43 million pound deal that will make Radamel Falcao a permanent United player. These numbers are positively mind numbing to say the least, this is the league previously occupied by the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City et al. But now the other half of Manchester has decided to join in on the fun. Fans have moaned and complained in seasons past at Manchester City’s reckless spending and their attempts to ‘Buy’ their way to the top of the food Premier League food chain. Despite all of City’s spending, it was United who fielded the most expensive XI the Premier League had ever seen when the two locked horns on derby day, game they promptly went on to lose. It’s not that pre Van Gaal united were buying their players at the thrift shop with only twenty dollars in their pockets but the paradigm shift in transfer fee and policy has been evident. Now to be fair, United were in genuine need of some quality and the likes of Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao are in the top bracket but what has all of this spending really accomplished?
Louis Van Gaal has not been brought to Manchester to provide a quick fix but to rebuild a club that has been on a steady decline since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. So let’s evaluate how ‘Project Van Gaal’ has fared so far.
16 points from 11 games and a seat at the 7th position, that is how it has fared. Everything else is secondary. The derby defeat was a tough pill to swallow and the scratchy win against Crystal Palace was definitely not vintage United but at this stage the points take precedence above all else and the Palace victory did bring an end to a three match winless streak. LVG has tweaked the team’s formation a number of times since his arrival and so far the team has yet to find its footing. Di Maria has clearly been the standout player for United since his much heralded arrival from Spanish giants Real Madrid but Van Gaal has repeatedly chosen to deploy Di Maria on the right when it is clear to all and sundry that he would wreak utter havoc through the middle. LVG has so far managed to regulate United’s three world class strikers with relative success but things will get more interesting when Falcao returns to the fold. That, coupled with Robin Van Persie’s lukewarm form will surely add to Van Gaal’s ever expanding list of problems. The Centre Back conundrum presumably sits on top of that list. Having failed to acquire a Centre Back in the summer transfer window, United’s defence has been shaky to say the least. It was in absolute shambles last weekend when the two starting Centre Backs were a returning Michael Carrick and 19 year old Paddy McNair. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have failed to step up as expected and the bevy of injuries at the back has not helped matters in any way. A top quality Centre Back should be on the top of LVG’s January shopping list, rumours are linking Athletic Madrid’s Miranda to Old Trafford and signing him or somebody of his calibre or better is an absolute must. Then there’s the Mata matter, signed Pre Van Gaal in January for a whopping 37.1 million (doesn’t seem all that much now, does it?), it has become clear that Belgian wonder kid Adnan Janujaz is LVG’s preferred starter on the right. While it’s certainly great to see the effervescence of youth being given a chance, one has to feel for Mata. His celebration as he scored the winning goal at Old Trafford against Crystal Palace was telling of his subdued frustration. LVG has to keep both these stars satisfied as Mata is one of the best playmakers in the world and Januzaj one of the most promising youngsters. Also, United don’t want another Pogba scenario on their hands. Having let one future superstar go, they will not want to see the mistake repeated.
Louis Van Gaal has a lot of dangling threads that he has to handle and the pressure is as immense as ever. He arrived in England on the back of league titles in three different countries, it doesn’t look like he will be adding to that this season but ‘Project Van Gaal’ is well and truly underway and there’s only one way for the team to go now, Up.