Of all the traits expected to be encompassed by a modern day Manchester United manager, ambition is up there with the most vital.
The ambition to win, the ambition to improve and the ambition to ensure that the best players around have to think seriously hard before rejecting United’s advances are mere staples in the locker of the ideal candidate to lead the post-Sir Alex Ferguson Old Trafford project. Whilst David Moyes may have tried his best to tick all three boxes his dire reign was clear evidence that he was unable to carry out his intentions, thus he was dismissed less than a year after taking the job. As luck would have it, his replacement looks as though he is so far along at the other end of the spectrum he could fall off of it.
Louis van Gaal has been appointed to take the dregs of Ferguson’s famous United and oversee a transition back to the stage where they are considered a European footballing superpower once more. To do that of course he’ll have to spend plenty of the Glazer family’s cash, and he’s already set about compiling a list of the players he wants to see arriving at Old Trafford this summer, despite the fact he’s still technically offering his full attentions to Holland’s World Cup campaign.
Naturally the supposed transfer short-list which he has handed Ed Woodward largely comprises of the usual suspects, but it’s the inclusion of one player in particular which so perfectly demonstrates the Dutchman’s aspirations for success in Manchester; Thomas Vermaelen. The Arsenal captain may be coming off the back of a relatively lacklustre season on a personal note, but he remains one of the most senior members of Arsene Wenger’s squad, and Gunners fans will have been collectively stunned when they woke up to headlines claiming that he had agreed terms with one of their biggest rivals.
The rumours have since been quelled by a personal statement from Vermaelen himself, but if you’re part of the majority who side with the ‘no smoke without fire’ modus operandi then you’ll likely be satisfied with the understanding that Van Gaal does intend on making him a United player. For why wouldn’t he? The Belgian is a top level professional who has not only proved that he can be relied upon consistently, but also that he is a figure who will actively look to lead when given the chance.
Throw those qualities into a camp which is now Nemanja Vidic-less and you can somewhat dampen the blow. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Van Gaal’s defence needs strengthening, and the likes of Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones aren’t nearly qualified enough to fill the boots left by the colossal Serbian and his also-departing partner, Rio Ferdinand. Acquiring Vermaelen - for a poultry £12million I might add - is quite literally a masterstroke from Van Gaal, and one which could set him firmly on course to succeed where his predecessor so famously failed.
With a move which will no doubt be celebrated by United fans and damned by those who support Arsenal, Van Gaal has already managed to ruffle Wenger’s feathers by potentially curing a problem which has concerned the masses since Vidic confirmed he had agreed a deal with Inter Milan.
He may take some time in putting together his ideal United squad, and things could get worse before they get better. One thing’s for sure though, Van Gaal certainly doesn’t lack the ambition needed to restore the Red Devils to their former glory.