Louis van Gaal has always been a coach who demands much from his players. At his official unveiling as Manchester United manager on Thursday, he laid down a challenge for many in his squad to prove that they can handle what he’ll throw at them in the coming weeks and months. One of his predecessor’s key failings proved to be a lack of decisiveness when evaluating the players he inherited. A squad that was clearly in need of a refresh last summer was allowed by David Moyes to stumble listlessly to the club’s worst finish in a generation.
While the Netherlands’ run to the semifinals of the World Cup has left him with little time before the end of the transfer window, Van Gaal explained that he wouldn’t rush into doing more business, but still aims to make quick assessments.
“I want to look at the players now, the players present,” he said at his first press conference in his new job. “Of course I know how the players play. But I don't know the players under my training or coaching. In the first three or four weeks, I want to see what they can do. Then maybe I will buy other players.”
Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera have already arrived for a combined outlay of almost £60 million, but more transfers look sure to be on the way. And it is hard to think that there won’t be some casualties among the current squad. Here are 10 players whose future Van Gaal may decide lie elsewhere
Perhaps more than anyone, Anderson had to give an impeccable account of himself in order to earn another chance under the new manager. Instead, epitomizing his time at the club, news has come that the Brazilian midfielder has picked up a calf injury in training and won’t be a part of the club’s tour of the United States. Having continually failed to impress over any kind of extended period since United spent around £20 million to bring him to Old Trafford in 2007, Anderson will surely now be moved on, if a willing taker can be found. Even when on loan at Fiorentina in the second half of last season, he started just four matches.
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With the exception of a decent start to his Manchester United career, Young has looked, at best, exactly what he is -- a good Premier League player. He was always below the level of player a club of United’s stature should be targeting and Van Gaal is unlikely to take long to realize it. Having seen his career stall at Old Trafford, and having been plagued by the spotlight on his habit of throwing himself to the ground in the penalty area, a transfer away should be good for both parties.
Nani is a winger with substantially more ability than Young, making his contribution even more frustrating. There were a couple of seasons, particularly when being voted the club’s Players’ Player of the Year in 2010-11, that it appeared he was finally set to realize his potential. Instead his last two seasons have been eminently forgettable. Moyes’ decision to hand the former Sporting Lisbon man a new five-year contract last September and then proceed to feature him sparingly was one of the more bizarre of the Scotsman’s short reign. It may ultimately do little more than ensure United receive a decent fee when he is sold, although, possessing pace out wide that should appeal to the new manager, Van Gaal may be tempted to see if he can harness the Portuguese international’s talents.
What was a difficult to comprehend signing when Sir Alex Ferguson agreed to pay £7 million for an unknown 20-year-old, just five weeks after he was snapped up on a free transfer by Portuguese club Vitória de Guimarães, has only become more bizarre since. He has started just four competitive matches in his four years at the club, which has included three loan spells. There was perhaps little surprise when news broke that he had been was left out of Van Gaal’s travelling party to the U.S. Having showed promise with 12 goals on loan at Portuguese side Paços de Ferreira last season, he could now earn a move back to his homeland.
Another player to be left off of the U.S. tour squad list, Evra is on the verge of bringing his eight-and-a-half years at Old Trafford to an end. Ideally, Van Gaal may have preferred the experienced and influential France international to stick around for another season and act as a mentor and alternative to 19-year-old Luke Shaw. However, it would be understandable were the 33-year-old not to be keen on spending a significant part of the season on the bench. A transfer to Juventus is said to have been put on hold following the Italian champions’ change of manager, but Evra looks on the move, regardless.
The Mexican striker had an outstanding first season after arriving following the 2010 World Cup, but has struggled to replicate that form since. Hernández’s inability to hold down a regular place really appeared to decimate his confidence for both club and country last season, leading to him being reduced to a role off the bench at this summer’s World Cup. While a lively, predatory penalty-box presence, it is difficult to see him being granted the number of games under Van Gaal that he really needs to get his career back on track.
While Ander Herrera has already arrived, at least one more central midfielder looks likely to be on the way to strengthen an area of the team that has been staggeringly neglected for far too long. To many fans, Cleverley has, somewhat unfairly, been cast as the symbol of United’s failings in midfield. At his best he is a neat and tidy midfielder, but he has failed to show the dynamism and influence he promised when first returning from a loan spell at Wigan three years ago. With just a year left on his contract, Van Gaal may well decide it’s time to cash in.
After fighting so admirably to get back to fitness following two years out with illness, Fletcher now faces another huge struggle to convince Van Gaal that he is deserving of a place in the squad as he enters the final year of his contract. The Scot will have to show that he still has the same energy levels of his peak, although his commitment to the club and lack of value in the transfer market increase his chances of being kept on.
It was incredibly frustrating to see the way the Japanese playmaker was underused and misused by Moyes last season. A key part of Borussia Dortmund’s double win in 2011-12, Kagawa has not been given a consistent run in his favored No. 10 role to Old Trafford, although even he would admit he has not always made the most of his opportunities. Entering the final two years of his contract, the time is now to make a decision on his future. The presence of Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney mean Kagawa’s prospects aren’t great, but there must be hope that Van Gaal can harness his undeniable talent.
Big things were expected of Smalling when he arrived from Fulham four years ago. Yet he failed to do enough to dislodge Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand, even as it became obvious that their best days were behind them. Now with both men gone, a void is in need of filling at the center of Manchester United’s defense. With the club linked with transfers for Mats Hummels and Stafan de Vrij, the England international now has to step up.