Trophy or bust

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-10 5:03:01

Time for Van Gaal to deliver at Old Trafford

Memphis Depay of Manchester United in action during a first-team training session on Monday in Manchester, England. Photo: CFP

It's been a year since Louis van Gaal arrived in Manchester and for all his talk of patience around his philosophy now is the time that the Dutchman has to deliver.

He inherited a squad that had gone from title winners under Sir Alex Ferguson into mid-table mediocrity under David Moyes. Van Gaal's arrival was later than he'd have liked as it only came after the Netherlands had finished their World Cup campaign so it's understandable that preparations were not to his exacting standards. The new manager was quick to point that out to the press, he complained about the training ground, the setup of the club's preseason tour and the amount of time needed to implement his vision.

The fact is that this is no longer Moyes' United, this is Van Gaal's. He has had a year to affect the changes that he deemed necessary. The club is run by his staff and to his methods, there can be no more excuses. When Manchester United fly to the States on Monday to begin this year's preseason tour they will follow an itinerary that has met the Dutchman's approval. What might not please Van Gaal is that he hoped to have his final squad ready for the only four games the side will play to prepare for the arrival of Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on August 8.

Signings needed

For a manager that likes to do his transfer business early, United have been alarmingly inactive in this summer window. They have signed exciting Dutch winger Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven and agreed to sign Matteo Darmian, the Torino and Italy right back. It's common knowledge that the club needs to strengthen along its spine, with at least one central defender, central midfielder and striker missing from the current squad. Then there's the issue of the goalkeeper. If David de Gea's will-he-won't-he move to Real Madrid ends with the Spanish team getting what they want, and it usually does, then Van Gaal would need to move for another stopper, either as first choice or backup to Victor Valdes.

United don't have a squad capable of winning the Premier League and that is unlikely to change before they set off for the California coast. It stands to reason that regardless of how finalized Van Gaal wanted his squad so that they could hit the ground running, United will be active in the window until its deadline. This was the case last season when late moves for Radamel Falcao and club-record signing Angel di Maria brought hope of an immediate return to success.

The question is why have United not dipped into the transfer market? Rumor has it that it might not be their decision to make. The club inked a world-record sponsorship with adidas that comes into effect on August 1. Until then, which includes all of the preseason tour, United will be decked out in the kit provided by current sponsor, and great rival of adidas, Nike. It's speculated that the German giants don't want the publicity of new signings to go to their counterparts and that they have pressured the club into laying off signings until August. Whether that is true or not, it's believable and goes some way to explain a lack of incoming transfers, with the exception of Depay who was secured before the season ended among much competition for his signature.

Revolving door

There is one area where United have been busy and that is showing players the door. Despite Van Gaal's reputation as a big believer in youth, lots of players who have come through the academy have been sent packing, much like last summer. Tom Cleverley was released when his contract expired on July 1, having spent last season on loan at Aston Villa, while under-21 captain Tom Thorpe, a player many had high hopes for, was also allowed to walk away. That rebranded reserve side has also lost Swiss fullback Saidy Janko to Celtic and Chilean forward Angelo Henriquez to Dinamo Zagreb, for whom he scored 21 times on loan last season as they romped to the Serbian title.

The list of those who now call themselves former Manchester United players goes on. Darren Fletcher has moved to West Brom permanently, Anderson is at Internacional, Wilfried Zaha calls Crystal Palace home once again and Luis Nani is set to fail to deliver on his undoubted promise at Fenerbahce. The Portuguese winger may yet be joined in Istanbul by Robin van Persie, while Rafael, Javier Hernandez and Jonny Evans have all been told they can leave if an offer comes in.

Van Gaal has got his way with preseason and is a few deals away from being able to field a side that has no players signed by Ferguson. When that ­happens the clock is ticking. Next May there needs to be some red and white ribbons attached to a trophy or it will be the Dutchman heading to the exit.

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