After watching Manchester United struggle to draw with Sunderland and then crash and burn against MK Dons, it doesn’t take a genius to see that serious investment is needed.
£59.7 million later, Angel Di Maria had been brought in and handed the legendary number 7 shirt with the expectation of changing the team’s fortunes.
But Di Maria, while a wonderful player, is not the man United need. Every team needs quality players, but attacking midfielders like Di Maria is probably the only area where United have quality.
Looking at the Sunderland and MK Dons game a central defender with experience and quality must be top of the list. If you look at the teams that have won the title in recent years, they all had leaders at the back. Man City’s recent domestic success has largely been down to the security Vincent Kompany provides, while Chelsea’s success in the first Jose Mourinho era was built around his skipper, John Terry.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling don’t quite fit that mould.
Rumours persisted around Mats Hummels all summer, and van Gaal should have ensured that he was a number one target. An excellent World Cup for the German ended with a winner’s medal after years of being admired from all corners for his efforts with Borussia Dortmund.
Hummels is finally widely recognised as one of the best defenders around. He may have commanded a high transfer fee, but he would not only be a leader at the back, but could also teach Phil Jones some more defensive lessons. He could also remind Johnny Evans not to attempt to pass the ball around the box, even if the opposition are only a League 1 side.
The gaping hole elsewhere has been obvious even years before Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Not since Roy Keane hung up his boots have Manchester United had a midfielder who could grab a game by the scruff of the neck and turn it on its head. Di Maria is not that sort of player.
Arturo Vidal is that sort of player. Blaise Matuidi of PSG is that sort of player.
Paul Pogba is also well on his way to becoming that sort of player, but let’s not go there.
More rumours circulated today that United will finally make an offer for Vidal, but this is something that shouldn’t be a rumour. He should have been a prime target; signed, sealed and delivered weeks ago, especially after such a good World Cup with Chile.
Vidal is one of the most complete midfielders in the world. He can tackle, pass, score. Everything a certain Aston Villa assistant did in his prime.
Van Gaal is not the problem. Moyes was not the problem last season. Man United have a poor squad, and it is as simple as that. Fingers should be pointed at Ed Woodward. He should not be in charge of transfers at the club. United need an experienced director to head up their transfer plans and that person is not an accountant.
While he should be credited for his financial deals with Chevrolet and Adidas recently, he should be far away from the transfers. Especially after 2013. The club certainly need a transfer in that department.
So while signing quality players like Di Maria is all well and good, it’s signing quality for the right positions that is important for the Red Devils. Otherwise Manchester United fans better get used to challenging for a Europa League spot for the foreseeable future.
Steve Neville, Pundit Arena.