David Moyes may have been forgiven for assuming that the appointment of Louis van Gaal as Manchester United manager would offer him a little reprieve from the backlash of his doomed reign in the Old Trafford hot-seat.
The excitement surrounding the imminent arrival of the highly-lauded Dutchman has paved the way for the sort of optimism not seen in the red half of Manchester since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, and the woeful misgivings of last term appear to have finally been swept under the carpet. As I said, Moyes would have been forgiven for believing that the days when his name was mentioned in the same sentence as United were over. Forgiven, yet oh so wrong.
The latest little number to be doing the rounds is centered around the notion that Moyes had virtually set up a deal for Bayern Munich’s Toni Kroos, only for Van Gaal to opt out of the proposal when he took over. Don’t worry, you heard it right; the 62-year-old opted instead to pursue Ander Herrera - perhaps a wise choice in hindsight as the Spaniard is now officially a United player.
However in my opinion whilst there’s no debating the fact that Van Gaal is a better manager in virtually all aspects of the role than the man he succeeded, Red Devils fans ought to be feeling more than just a slight tinge of annoyance that he decided to undo Moyes’ hard work, and reject the chance to sign Kroos.
Whilst it’s been widely rumoured for some time now that Moyes had been successful in his attempts to engineer a scenario wherein one of Bayern Munich’s most gifted players moved to Old Trafford, the Daily Express today appeared to all but confirm that Kroos was set to move to United.
Of course realistically speaking it was apparent as early as Christmas that the Scot wasn’t likely to be the man reaping the benefits of the deal he had worked so hard to orchestrate, such was the speed at which his side fell from their position at the summit of English football, but even so footballing purists would have expected Van Gaal to follow a similar suit.
Alas the Dutchman didn’t, and despite his tactical nous and well-recognised ability to construct and maintain trophy-winning sides, I can’t help but feel it was a majorly poor decision.
The spine of the midfield
Whilst Herrera’s signature was never going to be received by anything other than rapturous celebration by the United faithful, it’s an insult to Kroos to claim that the two are in the same league as each other at this point in their careers. With nothing to split the 24-year-olds in terms of age it’s fair to say that the decision to go for the Spaniard over his German counterpart was based solely on his ability to fit into United’s spine.
Even this theory is somewhat negated by the stats from last season. Kroos may not have found himself revered in Pep Guardiola’s set up in the same manner as Philip Lahm or Arjen Robben, but he oozes confidence and the ability to supremely conduct proceedings in the middle of the park in a way reminiscent of Barcelona talisman Xavi Hernandez in the years building up to his prime.
The short, crisp fluency of Kroos’ balls to players in and around him are complemented by his aptitude at picking out team-mates with sweeping cross-field balls, and his consistently brilliant deliveries from set-pieces are yet another string to what is fast becoming a heavily-laden bow.
In contrast Herrera, who in fairness did enjoy an impressive campaign on an individual level, has yet to prove he can do the business week in, week out on the biggest stage. Whilst it’s all well and good taking the risk, Kroos - who now seems destined to join Real Madrid for £25million (£3million or so less than Herrera cost United) - was simply the better option when it comes to strengthening United’s woefully weak spine.
What the stats say
The disparity between the two players is even further emphasised when stats are factored into the argument. Herrera’s pass completion rate of 81% is dwarfed by Kroos’ of 92% (the latter also played in four less fixtures, 29 to Herrera’s 33), whilst the German managed a colossal 1975 successful passes to his rivals 1229.
Though Herrera’s key pass ratio is admittedly higher - 48 to Kroos’ 36 - that can be put down to the fact that Kroos’ role for Bayern Munich doesn’t allow him the same freedom as Herrera when it comes to getting forward.
Though there can be no questioning that Van Gaal’s reign is probably going to bear more fruits than Moyes’ did, he’s surely made a mistake by actively choosing to lay to waste the effort put into engineering a transfer for Kroos?