Football

Manchester United afflicted by same old problems under Van Gaal

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Not the ideal start for Louis Van Gaal
Not the ideal start for Louis Van Gaal.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Louis Van Gaal's first match as Manchester United manager ended with the club's first home loss on the opening day of a Premier League season since 1972.

The Dutch boss was hailed as a genius even before managing a competitive United match by an Old Trafford fan base that was desperate for success after last season's calamity. That looks slightly premature now.

It's arguable that Van Gaal fielded a squad worse than anything David Moyes ever put out. A back three of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Tyler Blackett? Ashley Young and Jesse Lingard as wing-backs?

With Robin Van Persie, that triumvirate with Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata looks world-beating on paper. With Javier Hernandez, it looked tired, leaden footed and forced in practice.

Of course, this is not a criticism of Van Gaal. It's a criticism of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes. The signings over the last five years have been woefully inadequate.

While Manchester City and Chelsea have strengthened transfer window after transfer window, United have added bits and bobs. A Wilfried Zaha here, a Marouane Fellaini there. They've conducted business like outsiders trying to crack the top four, not perennial title contenders.

This squad has been allowed to rot by managers that have lacked ambition in the transfer market and a hierarchy that has failed to back them when targets have been identified.

How does a club like Manchester United fail so publicly so often? Cesc Fabregas, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos. It looks likely that we'll add Arturo Vidal and Angel Di Maria to that list.

And that's the most frustrating thing. These two players, Di Maria especially, are 100 per cent available to sign this summer. The Argentine international is a legitimate world-class player.

It's easy to say 'United need three or four world class players'. But that's practically impossible to resolve in one transfer window. Even Real Madrid and Barcelona only sign one or two £30m+ players per window. Building a squad is about taking advantage of opportunities over several transfer windows.

This Di Maria situation is a classic opportunity, the kind of which United cannot afford to pass up. It's the kind of chance United have failed to take transfer window after transfer window to date.

Going into the Swansea match, having looked at the team sheet, every United fan was basically counting on Van Gaal to somehow conjure life from a dead squad. Unfortunately, Van Gaal is not a miracle worker.

Because these problems at Old Trafford are not superficial. They're deep and have been allowed to take root. They were obvious all last season and they're obvious now.

At least one new centre-back, a new centre-midfielder, a creative attacker. United lacked these under Moyes, and they lack them now. Over the summer they found a manager with the name and the confidence to give United fans their mojo back.

Unfortunately, he can't be expected to do the same with the players.

Topics:
Premier League
Manchester United
Football
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