Had David Moyes not been sacked, Manchester United probably would have started the season with at least one of Toni Kroos or Cesc Fabregas lining up in their midfield. However their moves to Old Trafford failed to materialise, rather mysteriously, after the Red Devils appointed Louis van Gaal as their new permanent manager.
At the time it felt like Van Gaal was almost trying to prove a point by distancing himself as far away from the disastrous Moyes regime as possible.
But if that was true, surely he would have passed up the chance to sign two other Moyes targets: Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera.
Moyes and his scouting staff put in the groundwork for both deals; all Van Gaal had to do was give the green light and the transfers were finalised.
It was expected to be a similar case with Kroos, who had made it clear to Bayern Munich officials that he had no intention of signing a new contract at the Allianz Arena and wanted to quit the club in the summer.
Kroos at £20m? No brainer...
At £20 million, it seemed like a no-brainer for United, who were in dire need of a world-class central midfielder this summer, despite the arrival of Herrera.
Manchester United fans spent May, June and the first half of July anxiously waiting for updates regarding Kroos - but they were left bitterly disappointed, and a little bemused, on July 17 when news broke that the German World Cup winner had agreed a move to Real Madrid.
The ten-time European champions didn't need Kroos half as much as Manchester United did - so why didn't Van Gaal push harder to sign him?
Van Gaal and Kroos worked together at Bayern
That the veteran Dutch coach had worked with Kroos at the Allianz Arena made it even stranger.
Of course, Kroos may have harboured a burning ambition to play for the glamorous Real Madrid - the club widely regarded as the biggest in world football - but it was reported by reliable sources very early into Van Gaal's tenure that he had no interest in signing Kroos.
"Despite his ability to also play in the No10 role or as box-to-box midfielder, Van Gaal, who is aware of Kroos’s abilities from his own time managing Bayern, has decided he should not be a target for the club this close season," the Guardian reported in May.
But no explanation was given as to why Van Gaal didn't fancy the 24-year-old central midfielder, who had proven his class with both club and country over the past few seasons.
United fans - and former players - wanted Kroos
In fact, you would have been hard-pressed to sign anyone who would have omitted Kroos from their list of top five midfielders from world football.
He certainly caught the attention of United legend Paul Scholes, who might have been part of an ambitious 'Class of 92' coaching team had the Glazer family opted to hand Ryan Giggs the manager's job on a permanent basis.
“The first player I’d bring in is Toni Kroos," the retired midfielder wrote in his Paddy Power column back in May. "He’s a top-class central midfield player but United need five or six to get anywhere near the top of the Premier League again.”
This echoed the thoughts of just about every Manchester United supporter, who all gave Van Gaal the benefit of the doubt. After all, they were supremely confident that their trusty new manager wouldn't allow United to start the new season without a team that had been significantly strengthened in all areas.
Van Gaal made mistakes in transfer window
But one month into the new season and it's looking like Van Gaal made some costly, and downright bizarre, decisions in the transfer market.
Although he added some serious fire power - in the form of Radamel Falcao and Angel di Maria - he neglected the team's midfield and defence.
He would argue otherwise because he brought Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind - but none of them could be classed as commanding centre-backs, which is precisely what United were crying out for following the departures of both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.
The Red Devils shipped in five goals against newly-promoted Leicester City last Sunday - a result which, in terms of sheer humiliation, ranked alongside any of the worst matches from the Moyes era.
Last month's 4-0 defeat to League One side MK Dons, meanwhile, was a far more embarrassing defeat than any that Moyes suffered during his ill-fated ten-month tenure.
Did Kroos and Van Gaal fall out?
Kroos wouldn't have solved United's defensive issues, but the £160,000-a-week star would have injected some much-needed class into the Red Devils' midfield.
Van Gaal clearly didn't believe that Kroos was right for his philosophy and perhaps they didn't enjoy the best of relationships during their time together at Bayern Munich.
The Dutchman's tenure at the Allianz Arena ended with him being unceremoniously sacked, after all, with just about everyone at the club sick to the back teeth of his demands by the end of his reign.
"His management style reminds me of that of Felix Magath," Bayern Munich's chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told reporters. "It doesn't win you any friends."
If Kroos didn't want any part of Van Gaal's Manchester United project, it suggests the relationship between the two men ended the moment the disciplinarian Dutch coach walked away from Bavaria - or possibly even earlier.
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