With Man United's lack of midfield quality exposed by Swansea on EPL's opening day, new manager Louis van Gaal has his work cut out to turn things around if purse strings aren't loosened, writes Dileep Premachandran
“Who do you support then?” he asked as he brushed back my hair with a comb. “I’m not telling a Manchester United fan that, not when he has a pair of scissors in his hand!” I replied.
Dave just laughed. He has been going to Old Trafford for more than 40 years now, and had paid close to 1000 pounds to renew his season ticket, near the halfway line between the Stretford End and the South Stand.
Miserable under Moyes
After a miserable season under David Moyes last season — seventh place and no European qualification — there was plenty of optimism in the streets around Old Trafford ahead of a new season. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the Moyes era had begun with victory in the Community Shield and a 4-1 thrashing of Swansea away from home.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal (right) with assistant Ryan Giggs before their English Premier League match against Swansea City at Old Trafford on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images.
There were scarcely other highlights though, and few things grated with the fans quite as much as the manner in which Manchester City and Liverpool, who finished first and second, came to Old Trafford and gave United footballing lessons.
The renewed sense of well being had everything to do with the hiring of Louis van Gaal, one of the few managers in the game with the sort of CV you’d expect from someone succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson. Moyes had done sterling work with Everton for over a decade, but his lack of experience at the highest level of the game was ruthlessly exposed both in games against the Premier League’s elite and the best teams in Europe.
Van Gaal, who led Netherlands to third place at the World Cup, has European pedigree, even if you have to go back to 1995 for his only Champions League success, with Ajax of Amsterdam. League titles in his homeland, Germany and Spain speak of his adaptability, and United will doubtless expect him to lead them back to promised lands, starting with a top-four finish in the league.
Despite the buzz created by his arrival, progress has been slow on the transfer front. Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao looks a great signing, but he’s more an upgrade on Michael Carrick than a dynamic game-changer.
United made no serious attempt to sign Toni Kroos, who went to Real Madrid, or Cesc Fabregas, bought by Chelsea. The lack of midfield quality was badly exposed by Swansea on the opening day of the season, and van Gaal has his work cut out to turn things around if the purse strings are not loosened considerably.
Dileep Premachandran is editor-in-chief of Wisden India