Has Van Gaal missed a trick at Manchester United with pace comments?
In wrapping up a late summer deal for Anthony Martial, Louis van Gaal took his total spend in a little over 12 months at Manchester United past the £258 million mark.
He is, however, still not happy.
Remarkably, after shelling out close to four times what David Moyes was given to rebuild in the wake of Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, the man in charge at Old Trafford feels he is still short in a vital attacking area.
Having watched his side struggle for goals of late, but net twice against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, Van Gaal explained: “I have said already in my first year many times we need speed and creativity on the wings.”
FT: #mufc 2 West Brom 0. Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata score to clinch maximum points for Louis van Gaal’s side. pic.twitter.com/F5KhgQPQ1X
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 7, 2015
Not a ridiculous comment when reviewed in isolation, with United having gone three games in all competitions without a goal prior to last week – before squeezing past CSKA Moscow in Europe and the Baggies in Premier League action.
They have, quite clearly, been lacking a cutting edge, but the obvious question that should be levelled at Van Gaal and co is, why has that been the case?
Having inherited a squad which included the likes of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez, the Red Devils have moved two of that aforementioned trio out and brought in no out and out striker to replace them.
They have, however, spent big on Martial and Netherlands international Memphis Depay, forwards acquired at some considerable cost to provide creativity and a goal threat in the final third, while edging United up Premier League betting markets and back into title contention.
Why, then, is Depay rooted to the bench, with Jesse Lingard now staking a serious case to jump ahead of him in the pecking order, and Martial – at 19 years of age – being asked to plough a lone furrow down the middle with little service?
It is also worth noting, as Van Gaal bemoans a lack of pace and spark in his ranks, that he has also sanctioned a loan move to Borussia Dortmund for Adnan Januzaj, offloaded Angel Di Maria to Paris St Germain and persisted with using the likes of Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia – a man noted to be the fastest in world football by a FIFA study – in full-back or wing-back roles.
Surely he is not helping himself here, is he?
The Dutchman must also ask questions of his recruitment policy if, as he suggests, he has been calling for speed and creativity for 12 months now.
Looking at deals completed in the most recent window, luring Raheem Sterling away from arch-rivals was never likely to happen, but Manchester City put enough money on the table to force the issue and get their man.
The Blues did the same when acquiring Kevin De Bruyne – a player who would seemingly fit the mould for Van Gaal and one who would have cost fractionally less than Martial.
United may also feel that they should have pushed harder in the pursuit of Pedro, a World Cup winner and a player proven on the grandest of stages that was ultimately allowed to be snapped up by Chelsea, while Dimitri Payet has offered enough at West Ham United to suggest that United’s scouting team should have been fully aware of his potential – given that they were working in France while assessing Martial.
It is now difficult to see who they could turn to, with it highly unlikely that one of the best in the business could be secured in January.
The likes of Arjen Robben, Antoine Griezmann and Lorenzo Insigne are all enjoying productive campaigns at clubs pushing for domestic honours and Champions League qualification, so why would they move on?
An approach for Lazio’s Felipe Anderson has been mooted, while focus closer to home has shifted back towards Southampton’s Sadio Mane and Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez, but are they any better that those already on United’s books or those they have let go?
The best approach for Val Gaal may be to take a long, hard look at himself, his systems and tactical approach and endeavour to bring the best out of what he has, rather than continue to air his grievances in public and throw money at issues which are partly of his own making.