The Manchester United of old are dead and gone. No longer is it a daunting task to come to Old Trafford and play, nor is it as chaotic as it has been to host them. Not long ago, Manchester United was synonymous with hard work, long balls, strong tackling and an un-paralleled desire to win at all costs. Well, today, that is no more.
The Manchester United of today are much more accustomed to sitting back. Holding the ball, playing low percentage passes and letting the opposition dictate the pace, such is the creative instincts of Louis Van Gaal. The Dutchman who arrived three years ago promising a great deal off the back of Holland strong performances at the 2014 World Cup – has given little.
We’ve seen the standard and style of play regress to that of a mid-table team who fight for relevance. We’ve seen press-conference performances of a petulant child and most alarmingly, we’ve seen players play without any passion and desire what-so ever. The Manchester United of old are well and truly gone.
It pains me to consider how far they have fallen and it hurts even more to write about it, but the silver lining, however thin it may be at this time is, LVG’s tenure at the club is surely up at the end of the season. Honestly, the fact that he has made it this far is a miracle in itself. With his imminent departure, Van Gaal will leave behind a rather blank canvas, albeit, somewhat damaged.
With key player such as; Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick, Juan Mata, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney, Memphis Depay and Maroune Fellani struggling for form, fitness or both, whoever is to come in next has license to clean house. Over the past three years we’ve seen the academy orientated and development of young talent mindset disappear slowly, in favour for a more Manchester-City esque thought process of ‘spend till you win.’
With an academy choc-full of talent, that is the first thing that must change. Evidenced by the explosion onto the scene of academy product Marcus Rashford who has provided goals and highlights in a season where, there really hasn’t been much of either. Whilst, over the past three seasons, in which $300 million has been spent, there has been some talent brought in, such as Morgan Schniderlin and Anthony Martial, some lemons have found their way through as well. Of course, this is par for the course in the business, some players just don’t work out, but at Manchester United, you’re either ready or you’re not, and lately, some of the purchases have been more panic buys than anything else.
So, whoever inherits the team, be it Jose Mourinho, Laurent Blanc, Diego Simeone or Maurico Ponchetinno (the last two are my picks, and they are very much wishful thinking I would say) – they can look at the team and start again, those who haven’t worked out can still be of value to other teams, but at this stage, without knowing who the next manager is, it’s not my place to say who should go at this stage, that will certainly come once the European season is over. However, there are some players out there who should be at the top of the wish list for whoever takes the hot seat.
Daniele Rugani – A 19 year old Italian defender from Juventus, Rugani is strong in attacking the ball and poised when on it. At such a young age, he offers United a chance to invest in someone long-term, who could very easily slot into their starting line up immediately. Very much in the mould of Juventus team-mates Giogio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonnuci, he is to certainly keep an eye on.
Marquinhos – Long linked with a move to the English Premier League, the 21 year old Brazilian has made 67 appearance for Paris St-Germain since joining in 2013. A strong return given he is playing with David Luiz and Thiago Silva. Capped 9 times by Brazil, his career will continue to rise. A good passer with supreme aerial ability, he is much in the mould of a Thiago Silva or even a Rio Ferdinand.
Saul – The 21 year old Spaniard can double as a centre-midfielder or centre-defender. He is strong on the ball and in the air. Supremely organised off the ball, he is an elite athlete with his passing skills developing, he can soon become a player very similar to Koke. Another young player with great versatility, he can plug holes across the park and provide a bit of grunt and passion when its needed.
James Ward-Prowse – A product of the Southampton academy, Ward-Prowse has been on the radar of the bigger EPL teams for quite sometime. A good passer, strong in the area, organised and athletic as they come he could very well be an immediately inclusion into the starting XI at United to give them a bit of youth and vigour in the middle of the park. Creative on the ball, he can also fill that void so desperately missing this season. He can also take a fair free kick, check out this effort.
Antoine Greizman – The most experienced on the list, Antoine has been in supreme form since arriving at Atletico Madrid, scoring 40 goals in 68 games since 2014. Quick, creative, powerful and hungry, he is everything that Memphis Depay has yet to be this season. He has an innate ability to get in between the lines and use his pace to break the lines down. His passing also makes him a big threat when he drops deeper. He well rounded player and at the age of 24, he presents himself as being the most ready made to come into the lineup and make an impact.
Jesus Gamez – Defender (Atletico Madrid)
Riechedly Bazoer – Defensive Midfielder (Ajax)
Zach Clough – Striker (Bolton Wanders)
What do you think of this list? Are they ‘United’ material? Is there anyone else who should be on this list? Is there anyone who shouldn’t be?