The majority of Manchester United fans may still be riding the wave of optimism following Louis van Gaal’s introduction, but there’s only a very small portion of them who will continue to deny that the endeavours in the transfer market have been largely wasteful.
The month of June marked something of a turnaround for the fortunes at Old Trafford, with both Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera arriving for a combined sum of £56 million. Van Gaal had addressed two positions in need of a refurb, and weeks remained for him to set about tackling the remaining problems in the squad.
The current predicament
Yet aside from yesterday’s confirmation of the Marcos Rojo arrival - which also saw Nani departing - supporters have had very little cheer about on the transfer front. Supposed moves for Thomas Vermaelen and Mats Hummels hit bricks walls in their early stages, and a pursuit of Arturo Vidal which has been active since before Van Gaal assumed official duties in Manchester looks set to bear no fruit before September 2.
Regardless of Ed Woodward’s recent boasts that the Red Devils could afford to break records to ensure the arrivals of the biggest names in football United fans have every right to feel aggrieved with the relatively uninspiring acquisitions so far. The general consensus in the stands was made clear with the recent protests aimed at the Glazer family’s running of the club, spearheaded by criticisms concerning a lack of spending.
Making matter worse
To make matters worse United have remained relatively quiet whilst their fiercest Premier League rivals have made dramatic inroads with regards to strengthening for the campaign ahead. Arch-enemies Manchester City consented to paying what Porto demanded for the highly sought after Eliaquim Mangala, as well as moving to further bolster their defensive third with Fernando and Bacary Sagna.
Meanwhile Jose Mourinho has made good on his promise to turn Chelsea from the ‘little horses’ to Premier League-winning stallions via the arrivals of Diego Costa - who was arguably Europe’s most in-form player last term - and Francesc Fabregas, whose first game back in England’s top flight showcased just why he was ranked amongst the most gifted playmakers in the world prior to his Barcelona move.
Filipe Luis was purchased as a like-for-like replacement for Ashley Cole, and even Didier Drogba’s emotional return adds spice to Mourinho’s mixing pot.
Even Arsenal, whose own supporters have grown accustomed to putting up with the frugal measures required to finance their self-funded move to the Emirates Stadium, caught the attentions of the footballing world by paying over £30 million for Alexis Sanchez. Liverpool too have overseen a large outlay to recover from the departure of Luis Suarez, leaving United isolated in their frustrations.
The task at hand
The time for Van Gaal to assess what is needed to halt the morale-sapping poison which has slowly circulated the veins at Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement is over, the remaining days of the transfer window need to be spent successfully convincing high-profile players that a move to United doesn’t represent a risk.
Of course it’s not half as easy to engineer such deals when the owners of the targets in question aren’t willing to play ball. A refusal to entertain negotiations is what has enabled Juventus to keep Vidal, Borussia Dortmund to keep Hummels and Paris Saint-Germain to keep Edinson Cavani.
Therefore Van Gaal has to be wise, and cast his eyes to the players who remain world-class, but may be let go at the right price. Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso is one such player.
The purchase of Alonso
The former Liverpool star - who remains a strong fan favourite at Anfield - has been joined by both Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez at the Santiago Bernabeu this summer, adding more class to a midfield already boasting Luka Modric, Sami Khedira and Angel di Maria.
Whilst the latter two of those names are facing equally uncertain futures Modric has just hit his prime, and only a fool would think Florentino Perez had spent a combined €105 million on Rodriguez and Kroos just to see them sitting on the bench.
As such Alonso’s game-time could be quickly cut short, and speculation has already spread like wildfire suggesting the recently-retired Spain international is open to the idea of moving back to the Premier League. If it’s true, and there is at all scope for the midfielder to be captured by United, Van Gaal cannot afford to hesitate for a moment.
Though no longer sitting pretty in the peak years of his career Alonso remains one of the best passers of the ball in world football. Just as Andrea Pirlo, and more recently Steven Gerrard, was forced to do, the ex-Real Sociedad man appears to be slowly working his way back into a deep midfield role which allows him to routinely showcase his pin-point accuracy with long and short balls - therefore keeping him in the thick of things - whilst minimising the strain on his body in terms of exerted energy.
Thanks to his stellar careers with both Liverpool and Madrid, which has seen him win the Champions League twice, he’s got exactly the sort of star reputation United’s camp could benefit from, and his experience is virtually unparalleled in Europe. Though it could be argued that he’s a similar player to Michael Carrick his arrival would boost the team in far more ways than just his on-pitch exploits.
What’s more, a deal for Alonso would have the added bonus of breaking the hearts of virtually anyone who calls themselves a Liverpool fan. The Spaniard entered the pantheon of the game’s current greats whilst at Anfield, and there’s every chance he could keep himself there by enhancing Van Gaal’s options.