Louis van Gaal has had an assured start to his Manchester United career since linking up with his Manchester United squad after guiding the Netherlands to third place at the World Cup over the summer in Brazil. What with embedding his philosophy, taking time to assess the whole squad and biding his time in the transfer market for new recruits.
The transfers of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera in June for combined fees of around £60m were authorised by Van Gaal, after being targeted under the David Moyes era, stating “Shaw and Herrera were already on the list. I gave my approval because I like them”.
At his unveiling and first press conference for United mid July, Van Gaal set out his stall and was quick to state that he wanted to have a look at his squad and assess each of them before making any decisions in the transfer market. This is a pragmatic approach by the management team to see if his current squad are capable to adapt to the change in formation to a 3412 and new philosophy which Van Gaal wants to stamp on the club.
Manchester United fans got a taste of what was likely to occur at Old Trafford this season while keenly watching the Netherlands at the World Cup line up in a similar fashion, with wing backs being a focus as opposed to the natural wingers accustomed at United over the years.
It will be no surprise that members of the current squad will have been paying attention to the Dutch performances at the World Cup in anticipation of what was is likely to come in the following months at the club. One player who was a keen observer was Wayne Rooney who said “while I was in Brazil with England I watched the way Holland were playing on television and I carried on doing that when I came home. However you can watch as much as you want but it’s when you hear him getting his point across in training that you start to learn”.
On his first day Louis van Gaal told the media that “my method is always the same – I want to look at the players I have now. I want to see in the first few weeks what they can do. Maybe then I shall buy others players. I want to see the (current) players perform with my philosophy”. This would have been an exciting opportunity for the players to prove their worth to the manager and stake a claim to be a key member of the team as well as proving their leadership capabilities with the club captaincy still up for grabs.
As United embarked on their tour of the US, there were ample opportunities for the squad to prove their worth with Van Gaal testing out his 3412 formation, different player combinations and various captains along the way. The squad returned from their travels earlier this week having successfully won all five of their encounters, culminating in their 3-1 win over Liverpool on Monday in Miami in the International Champions Cup final.
During their time over in the US, Van Gaal again mentioned his need to assess the current crop of talent at the club when asked in his press conference about his players, saying “I want to give the current players an honest chance. We are winning everything; maybe we don’t need other players”. No doubt a positive sign for the players on the fringe on the first team and youth prospects to impress on tour and not be shipped out from the first instance without being given an opportunity. Especially with the managers stance on transfers; “I don’t buy players for the sake of it. I buy players to improve my selection.”
But now that the squad are back in Manchester continuing their preparations for the competitive fixtures, Van Gaal will decide the futures of players that he doesn’t fancy and let them know that they will be able to leave the club. Names such as Javier Hernandez, Shinji Kagawa, Marouane Fellaini, Nani and Anderson have been touted as the players that will be looking over their shoulder, with possible moves away already being rumoured in the media.
There seems to be a positive attitude and optimism back at the club from both the players and supporters alike since Louis van Gaal was appointed. What with his vast experience and approach to the team so far all United fans feel as if their club is in good hands this year and is exactly what the clubs needs, especially after last year’s huge disappointment.
Compare this pre-season to last year under David Moyes and there is a stark contrast. With a poor showing in the games on tour last year and multiple failings in the transfer market things got off badly and didn’t get much better throughout the season.
A focus was put on Moyes to make some big signings to complement his title winning squad which Sir Alex Ferguson had left him with. But with there were a multitude of failed bids for top players which were all over the media, including players such as Fabio Coentrao, Cesc Fabregas, Ander Herrera, Leyton Baines, Thiago Alcantara and Sami Khedira. This only intensified the desperation for Moyes who eventuality went for Marouane Fellaini for £27.5m; who I think we all agree was a panic buy and not worth the money invested in him.
There doesn’t seem to be that pressure this year on Van Gaal. What with the season opener with Swansea at Old Trafford kicking off a week on Saturday and the transfer window less than four weeks away from shutting, there is no panic setting in amongst the United faithfully who will be hoping that normal service is resumed under Louis van Gaal.