A disastrous 4-0 chastening at the hands of Milton Keynes Dons in the second round of the Capital One Cup dealt a new blow to Louis van Gaal’s short reign at Old Trafford and reinforced just how much work is required to overhaul the club’s fortunes. The club have broken their transfer record twice already in 2014 and have spent around £135 million alone this summer. The abject display against a third-tier side on Tuesday showed not only why such desperate spending has been required but that more is still needed.
The defeat came just hours after Manchester United made Ángel di María their record signing by capturing the former Real Madrid star for £59.7 million. And there are reports that the deal could be just the beginning of a frantic, expensive final week of the transfer window for a club desperate to get back into the Champions League.
Arturo Vidal is said to remain foremost in Van Gaal’s mind. While having been linked with the Juventus midfielder throughout the summer, it is thought that only in recent days have United pursued him with serious intent. Claims that Vidal’s agent was in Manchester on Wednesday or that he effectively bid farewell to his Juventus teammates have been exposed as the type of wild rumors that will surely be a regular occurrence in the coming days before the transfer window shuts next Monday.
A more realistic update comes from The Independent, which suggests that United will seek to meet Juventus’ demands by offering players in part-exchange. A knee injury the Chile international suffered at the end of last season continues to be a major stumbling block to a transfer being done, with United hesitant to pay in excess of £30 million for a player who was clearly still hampered by the problem during this summer’s World Cup. According to The Independent, Shinji Kagawa and Javier Hernández are candidates to be offered to the Italian champions in order to get around a heavy cash outlay.
Kagawa has been singled out for criticism by Van Gaal for his failure to adapt to the new coach’s wishes for him to operate as a deeper-lying midfielder. His first chance of the season to impress was cut short against MK Dons due to a concussion. Hernández also started on Tuesday night, but, as against Swansea City in an opening day Premier League defeat, he failed to impress.
The versatile Daley Blind could well be seen as an alternative to Vidal. Van Gaal worked with the Ajax player during the World Cup and the fact that he can play in central defense, down the left flank and as a central midfielder will surely appeal. Yet, Blind’s agent said this week that there had been no contact from Manchester United, and hinted that he wasn’t expecting any. The Daily Mirror believes that could change and have reported that Van Gaal has instructed executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to go out and get Blind and Vidal.
A most unlikely alternative to that duo has been put forward by the Daily Star on Wednesday. The tabloid reports that Van Gaal had Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen watched in the Merseysiders’ 3-1 defeat to Manchester City on Monday evening and is considering a £20 million transfer. Allen moved with manager Brendan Rodgers from Swansea City two years ago for a fee of £15 million. After a difficult first season he performed solidly last term, yet has not established himself as a key member of the Liverpool side. A fine passer of the ball, but hardly a dynamic midfielder, he would not appear to solve United’s needs in the center of the pitch. And the difficulties of Manchester United prizing the Wales international away from their fiercest rivals mean that it would be one of the most surprising transfers of recent times were it to go through.