If you’re a good lad like me, your girlfriend, wife, mother or alternative female relative left a chocolate-filled advent calendar outside your bedroom door this morning to mark the first day of December.
That’s right folks, we’re now on the 25-day countdown until Christmas, which means Coca-Cola adverts, xmas movies, carol singers and mince pies will be invading all of your senses for the next few weeks as we prepare for a visit from merry ol’ Saint Nick.
But it also means young children across the country will be writing their wish lists for Santa Claus – and it’s a little-known fact that Premier League managers also partake in the seemingly juvenile tradition.
Indeed, they may be aged 40 and older but nobody needs the magic of Christmas more than a gaffer working in the ever-turbulent world of the English top flight, especially with the January transfer window just around the corner.
So with that in mind, here are FIVE stars from world football who should be topping the wish list of Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal ahead of December 25th – providing he remembers to leave it at the bottom of his chimney, of course!
Manchester United have searched the market far and wide, yet no centre-back addresses their needs better than one of Louis van Gaal’s first priority targets upon taking the Old Trafford helm in summer 2014 – Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels.
Indeed, the German World Cup winner boasts the top-level experience the rest of United’s defence lacks and the ball-playing qualities LVG relentlessly craves, often earning comparisons with the legendary Franz Beckenbauer for his ability to instigate attacks with long-range passing and daring dribbles into the midfield.
Furthermore, the 6 foot 3 defender is still relatively young at 26 years of age and prefers to line up on the left – the side LVG is desperate to find a new recruit for to partner the right-orientated Chris Smalling.
Hummels has rejected United’s advances in the past, but a little bit of Christmas magic could change all that, especially considering the 44-cap international is now into the final 18 months of his Dortmund contract and was dropped last weekend after a rumoured bust-up with manager Thomas Tuchel.
Manchester United need another winger and another striker. Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann represents a Christmas present that would kill two birds with one stone.
Indeed, the France international earned his move to Vincente Calderon after proving an intrinsic influence on Real Sociedad’s rise from the Spanish second tier to the Champions League as their talismanic wide-man.
But the 24-year-old has been utilised almost exclusively as a striker by Diego Simeone, albeit predominantly in tandem with another centre-forward, and has gone on to produce 35 goals in 71 appearances since his £24million move in summer 2014.
Also famed for his speed and typical Simeone industriousness, Griezmann has often been tipped to prove a real force in the Premier League.
The good news is that Louis van Gaal doesn’t even need Santa’s help for this one, because the winger-forward’s contract includes a release clause. The bad news, however, is that it’s set at a rather steep €80million.
Louis van Gaal has spent a small fortune on reinventing Manchester United’s midfield over the last two summers, yet the engine room still lacks a world-class presence like former Red Devils youngster Paul Pogba.
Indeed, since swapping Old Trafford for the Old Lady by way of a free transfer in summer 2012, the Juventus star has emerged as one of the most formidable and sought-after central midfielders on the planet, boasting a gangly, powerful frame, technical trickery and an abundance of netting prowess.
The France international has played an integral role in Juve’s last three Serie A titles, amassing 22 goals and twelve assists in 103 league outings, and picked up the prestigious Golden Boy award – handed to the best player in Europe under the age of 21 – in 2013.
But even Santa might not be able to deliver this 22-year-old present in time for Christmas. Every major club from Barcelona to PSG are fighting over the all-action midfielder and outspoken agent Mino Raiola has insisted Pogba won’t leave Turin during the January window.
If there’s one attacker in world football who embodies the Louis van Gaal philosophy perfectly, it’s Thomas Muller – which is why Manchester United were said to be prepared to pay a world-record sum to sign the Bayern Munich star during the summer.
Indeed, the 6 foot 1 forward firmly falls into LVG’s adored category of the ‘multifunctional footballer’, having proved equally adept as a midfielder, a winger and a striker throughout his Bavarians career whilst providing a consistent supply of goals – 141 in 325 appearances to be precise.
That’s partly due to the German World Cup winner’s renowned industriousness and imperious physicality, but he’s also an exceptionally smart player, especially in positional terms, with fantastic technique.
Muller really would be a blockbuster signing for the Red Devils and would certainly address their struggles up front this term, with Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial providing just five Premier League goals between them thus far.
Santa’s a very generous and magical man but even his powers might not be enough to overcome German will. Bayern have made it clear that their world-class academy product isn’t for sale at any price.
Manchester United need a reliable goal scorer and there are few better in the Premier League right now than Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane – who of course gets a few extra brownie points for being home-grown.
The 22-year-old emerged from the peripheries of the Lilywhites’ squad to become the top-scoring Englishman in the Premier League last season with 21 goals in 34 appearances and following a slow start to the current campaign is finding the net regularly once again, boasting a return of eight in 14.
In addition to the England international’s consistent supply of goals, it’s his impressive all-round game that truly stands out. He creates chances for others, uses his 6 foot 2 frame well to hold up the ball and works tremendously hard.
Kane’s been rated as highly as £60million by some tabloids, but that could prove a worthwhile investment a few years down the line if the prodigious striker manages to sustain his current form.
Once again, however, Santa may be powerless to help Louis van Gaal with this one. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is a bit of a Grinch to say the least.