Manchester United are very much at a half-way house at this point of the summer. The club have spent around £60 million on transfer fees alone already, but the sense is that the real business is still to come. With a number of players still to be shown the door, there are far more questions than answers.
Who’s arriving? Who’s leaving? Who will be captain? Which formation will be used? Just how much money is available?
Louis van Gaal’s arrival will rightfully provide plenty of excitement ahead of the new season, but with just over three weeks to go until the opening fixture against Swansea City, he has little time to run the rule over the players at his disposal and evaluate whether they are willing and able to buy into his philosophy.
He got the very best out of the Netherlands at the World Cup as he was able to pick trusted young players he had handed debuts to, plus more battle-hardened veterans who could carry out his orders to a tee – the best example being Dirk Kuyt.
It’s unlikely he has even figured out if he has these players at United yet. Perhaps more importantly, this is a squad which simply needs more players. A vast overhaul would’ve been necessary after a terrible season under David Moyes, let alone after losing several big dressing room influences and essentially an entire defence.
The departures of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra not only leaves the club well short on defensive options but also leaders. With Ryan Giggs moving into his coaching role it only exacerbates the issue.
Between David de Gea and the forwards, United need a shake-up. The confidence-sapping campaigns suffered by the already injury-prone trio of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling mean at least one new centre-back is a must. Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen is a target, not least because he can provide cover on the left, and Feyenoord’s Stefan De Vrij is also on the agenda.
Top of the list is Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund. The Germany stopper is exactly what United need at the heart of the defence, but he is not expected to force the issue and Dortmund will not let him go cheaply, so expectations should be adjusted accordingly.