With the exception of perhaps Real Madrid, who will more than likely begin their hunt for the next Galactico signing, it’s safe to assume Manchester United are going to find themselves linked with more players ahead of this summer’s transfer window than any other club in football.
It’s obviously to be expected, I hear you cry. Yes, you’re right. Club experiences sudden drop in fortunes, club invests millions of pounds to stall drop in fortunes, club ensures world-class manager has virtually unlimited budget to begin rise back to the top, club sets about trying to lure the best players to smooth the transition.
United's expected flurry
It’s all very predictable when it comes to United and the transfer market now. You find one player, either of proven quality or currently in-form, who has a possible reason to move clubs, and you’re almost guaranteed to find a source running with the story that Van Gaal wants him for his project. Such is the nature of the footballing beast; made up by the fans, fueled on transfer gossip.
Now imagine you’re Van Gaal himself, fresh from coming to the steady realisation that you are indeed going to have to spend quite a lot of money if you’re to make good on your promise to restore United to their former glory.
Van Gaal's to-do list
An overhaul of the defence seems an absolute sure-fire way to improve things, the addition of a world-class ball-winner in the class bracket of Kevin Strootman wouldn’t go amiss and even a new forward may be needed to take the team to the next level.
Decisions, decisions. So many potentially huge transfer deals for Van Gaal to mull over, and yet without proper preparation the 63-year-old could yet find himself staring down the barrel of a transfer window every bit as disastrous as the one David Moyes endured immediately after his inauguration.
The difference maker
In my mind, somewhat ironically, the deal that could make or break Van Gaal’s fortunes at the club, and one that might come to define the success of his first year in charge, is one involving a player already proudly donning the United shirt. Last season’s Player of the Year, and a man who looks a shoo-in to retain his title, David De Gea.
Following the announcement from west London yesterday that Chelsea had committed star man Eden Hazard to a lengthy new deal, and that being preceded by a relieved Borussia Dortmund declaring Marco Reus’ extension, the spotlight has never burned so brightly on the negotiations between United and the man they have to thank for their current league position.
How he compares
De Gea’s importance to the setup cannot be understated. The gangly young teenager who arrived from Madrid in 2011 has been moulded into a rock-hard sentinel, and even through arguably the darkest period in United’s long history he has shone like a lighthouse beacon.
So far this term he’s kept as many Premier League clean sheets as Thibaut Courtois (7), and his save to goal ratio of 2.38 - as per Squakwa’s Comparison Matrix - is actually better than Courtois’ 1.70, Hugo Lloris’ 2, Simon Mignolet’s 1.73 and Wojciech Szczesny’s 1.40. Remember, those stats are achieved behind an infamously porous defence.
No, his on-pitch importance cannot be understated, just as the morale boost he brings the team can’t either. Even Paul Scholes, who at the time was in the middle of a column digging out United from the back forward, expressed the importance of a top side having an incredible ‘keeper to fall back on. De Gea is that incredible ‘keeper.
The ultimate danger
Alas though riding pillion to the flurry of excitement regarding possible additions to the front-line or the capture of a natural leader for the back four, there’s a danger than De Gea’s future could slip down a notch or two in Van Gaal’s list of priorities.
It’s now that I come happily full circle back to Real, who will indubitably endeavor to make United’s No.1 their next Galactico if given the chance. They might have otherwise tried for Hazard or Reus, but those two gents are now coincidentally off-limits.
Van Gaal has 101 logic-defying transactions he can be preparing for this summer. The one that should be sitting top of his list though is the one concerning the man he can’t afford to lose.
Manchester United fans, do you think De Gea's new deal should be Louis van Gaal's immediate priority? Let us know in the comments box below...