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Louis van Gaal's transfer mistake is simply unforgivable

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Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal spent a club-record £150m in the summer transfer window on a whole host of talent, but the Red Devils are still so far from operating as a cohesive unit its untrue.

Van Gaal deserves comparisons with former Newcastle United manager Kevin Keegan following an absolute capitulation against Leicester City yesterday, with a 5-3 defeat making it blindingly obvious that his side are not capable of winning the title because they failed to sign a top central defender.

Angel di Maria is a wonderful player and Radamel Falcao is a proven predator in the penalty area, but what's the point in having all that attacking prowess if scoring three goals isn't enough to beat a limited, if organised newly-promoted outfit?

The Dutch tactician deserves all the criticism coming his way after a shoddy final 30 minutes at the King Power Stadium, with the pressure now on to address glaring weaknesses urgently.

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Quality centre-backs in very short supply

One thing I will say in Van Gaal's defence is that top-class centre-backs are in very short supply at the highest level, with United's pursuit of former Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen proof of just that.

Vermaelen hasn't been anywhere near his best for 18 months and yet Van Gaal still targeted a summer switch, but ultimately the Belgian defender chose Barcelona.

Once that transfer chase was over Van Gaal simply had to go out and persuade an alternative that he could revitalise his career at Old Trafford, with one look through United's current options at centre-back a clear indication that they have defence falling well below the standard of title contenders.

Blackett promising but in need of more protection

Van Gaal put an extraordinary amount of faith in young defender Tyler Blackett form the word go this season, but has the gamble ultimately paid off?

Blackett had never played a minute of Premier League football before the start of the season but has featured in all five games so far this term, a decision which despite injuries to the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones is very surprising.

The 20-year-old has held his own on occasion but when the going's got tough against Swansea City and Leicester this season he's been found wanting.

You have to question the wisdom of Van Gaal throwing a youngster into the lion's den with limited protection to say the very least. It's all well and good keeping a clean sheet in a home rout against a sorry QPR, but in big matches surely United need more experienced heads than Blackett to ensure success.

Problem has been looming large for some time

The most frustrating thing for United fans is the defensive problem is nothing new. In January former skipper Nemanja Vidic confirmed his exit and Rio Ferdinand knew his time as a United star was up before the end of the season.

United effectively had more than six months of breathing space to go out and persuade a tower of strength like Mats Hummels or Eliaquim Mangala to sign up, with deep pockets to ensure any rival suitors were swatted aside.

Mangala in particular would have been perfect for United and was sensational on his full City debut against Chelsea yesterday.

The 23-year-old was calm, commanding and physically imposing against City's main title rivals, all qualities you can't associate with a player in Jonny Evans who should in truth be nothing more than a back-up for a club with Champions League aspirations.

Two left-backs at a cost of £50m

Spending a combined £50m on two players who both prefer to play in the same position also looks a baffling choice from United chiefs.

Luke Shaw is undoubtedly a potential world-class talent and widely heralded as the man to replace Patrice Evra when he completed a £27m move to United early this summer, but Marcos Rojo has still arrived and also wants to play at left-back.

Rojo may have spent most of last season at centre-back for Sporting Lisbon but it was his performances at the World Cup which caught Van Gaal's eye, and they came exclusively at full-back.

The Argentine international was awful against Leicester and has plenty to prove if he's to meet the standard required of a United regular, all while Shaw continues to wait for his debut on the bench.

United threw money round like confetti with the pressure on this summer, but surely even they can't see the logic in spending a third of their transfer budget on left-backs while failing to sign a single centre-back.

Can Blind help paper over the cracks?

On the evidence of the collapse against Leicester it looks like United will need Dutch midfield anchor Daley Blind to get through an extraordinary amount of work in front of the back four.

Blind looked superb against QPR but was nullified for long spells against the Foxes by David Nugent, a hard-working forward who played his man-marking role when not in possession to perfection.

If it's that easy to take United's only defensive-minded midfielder out of the game then Van Gaal has huge problems, even beyond indecision over which formation United play.

United spent the entirety of pre-season working on a 3-5-2 formation but simply don't have the defensive options to make the system work, reverting back to 4-3-3 very quickly.

It largely meant a summer of work was wasted though. United now need Jones and Smalling in particular to step up when fit and prove they belong at the club, or go out and spend big on a replacement in January.

Van Gaal has garnered a reputation as a feared, ruthless man manager and shouldn't be afforded much longer to turn things round, after all David Moyes made a marginally better start in his first five games and still got the chop before the season was out.

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Topics:
Football
Louis van Gaal
Manchester City
Manchester United
Premier League

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