With the news that Bastien Schweinsteiger has left Manchester United, the German becomes the fourth Louis Van Gaal signing to depart Old Trafford in nine months as José Mourinho dispenses of who he considers to be deadwood at Old Trafford following the Van Gaal era.
Louis Van Gaal may have ended Manchester United’ s FA Cup drought by beating Crystal Palace in last season’s FA Cup final at Wembley, and deservedly so, will forever be remembered for that win. Yet his tenure at the club set the Manchester United transition, from the days of Sir Alex Ferguson back by two years if not more.
Victor Valdes, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and now, Bastien Schweinsteiger all failed to live up to expectations at Old Trafford, like the man who signed them. Only Ander Herrera, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo look like having futures at the club.
The decisions of Van Gaal during his time at the club have been questioned with José Mourinho claiming he would never have sold Angel Di Maria, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez.
In a season when Manchester United have struggled for goals the creativeness of Angel Di Maria might have been crucial to Mourinho this campaign, had he got the player Manchester United thought they were signing, the Di Maria Mourinho had at Real Madrid.
It never worked out for the Argentinean at the club but Mourinho’s style of play this season would have suited the player more so than that of Van Gaal, although all the blame cannot be laid at the feet of the Dutchman.
With another Van Gaal signing in Luke Shaw, struggling to adapt to Mourinho’s demands, it would come as no surprise if he were next out the exit door. Matteo Darmian too is on the fringes of the Portuguese manager’s starting XI and none of them are indispensible to the club in the same way David de Gea, Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick still are even though all three were Sir Alex’s signings, which raises the question if Van Gaal’s spell at the club was just a waste of time in a crucial period.
Like David Moyes with Juan Mata, Van Gaal can be hailed for signing Ander Herrera although Moyes was unlucky not to capture the former Atletico Bilbao ace a year previous. Anthony Martial too has huge potential but question marks continue to be raised over the Frenchman’s long-term future at the club after a stop start season under Mourinho.
Marcus Rashford will have a huge future at the club and has Van Gaal to thank for throwing him into the first team set up, yet with that talent, it was always going to be a matter of time before that opportunity game.
Mourinho claimed when he arrived at Manchester United he found a “sad club.” He is still clearing up the debris left behind by the three managers before him. Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013 with Wayne Rooney, not for the first time, unsettled at the club, nearly four years on and the end looks closer than ever with the England captain still unsettled and no longer a first team regular, perhaps he should have been allowed to leave by Ferguson all those years ago.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are yet to convince anyone that they are vital to the Manchester United cause and always look to have a mistake in them and would not be a huge loss should either one or both be sold.
While David Moyes cannot take much blame given the limited time he got at the club, his signing of Marouane Fellaini like Van Gaal’s with Schweinsteiger was not a Manchester United signing, not a player that the Old Trafford faithful were used to seeing at the club, certainly in the attacking sense the club are famous for.
Van Gaal’s tenure was a frustrating period for all concerned and Mourinho is still cleaning up his mess. Yes Manchester United fans will not be happy should the club finish in sixth in the Premier League, where they have been for the majority of the season, yet the arrival of Mourinho has brought a return to the style of play that is expected at Old Trafford and this season will be considered a success even if Mourinho hadn’t already one trophy in the bag with the possibility of more to come.
The four signings Mourinho has brought into the club have been a success. He has restored a spine to Manchester United’s team. Eric Bailly looks closer to a Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic than Chris Smalling or Phil Jones ever will be and he has gotten the best out of Marcos Rojo, who continues to impress, as does Antonio Valencia who is having a superb campaign and must be a front runner for the clubs player of the season.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan struggled at the start of the season but now is arguably the first name on the team sheet when fit. Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to astound everyone apart from himself with his 26 goals in all competitions a huge return on the faith Mourinho showed in the 35 year old, his signing will be crucial to the development of Marcus Rashford.
You cannot mention Paul Pogba with people referring to the haircuts or his price tag. The Frenchman did not ask to be valued at £89m and the stats show the 24-year-old is having an impact at Old Trafford should people bother to look at those stats and not take the popular easy option and speak of his valuation.
For the first time in nearly four seasons, Manchester United fans can be in a positive mood going into the remainder of the season, safe in the knowledge the club is on the way back as Mourinho continues to clear out those no longer needed with three or four major new recruits already promised this summer.
The rebuilding job at the club is far bigger than anybody might have realised but Mourinho has shown he is the man for the job.
Damien McEvoy Pundit Arena