Manchester United spent an eye-watering £150million this summer to kick-off the Louis van Gaal era at Old Trafford, constituting the second-most expensive transfer window by a single club in the history of the beautiful game, only bettered by Real Madrid’s swoops for Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema in summer 2009.
With the Old Trafford outfit now fourth in the Premier League table, one could argue it’s already proving good value for money.
But could United have gone a step better? Perhaps this select XI combining the club’s leading stars and rumoured targets from the summer window can shed some light on the issue.
Having won the club’s Player of the Year award last term and a spot in the PFA Team of the Year the campaign previous, Manchester United were never going to make major changes to their goalkeeping department during the summer.
Indeed, without David De Gea in impeccable form throughout the season, David Moyes’ nightmare one-term tenure could have fared even worse. The 24 year-old has already put in some top performances since the summer, particularly this Man of the Match display against Everton:
Manchester United were sporadically linked to Seamus Coleman towards the end of last season but any interest in signing him was ended when the Ireland international extended his contract at Everton in July.
The 26 year-old was nothing short of incredible for the Toffees last season, netting six times from right back to earn him the Player of the Year award at Goodison, in addition to a spot in the PFA Team of the Season. Here’s a look at Coleman’s best strikes from 2013/14:
He’s brought that form into the current campaign too:
And with United rather short of options at right-back, recent reports claim Louis van Gaal could launch a swoop for the in-form Irishman come the January window:
— Metro Sport (@Metro_Sport) October 15, 2014
Ezequiel Garay has been on Manchester United’s radar since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson and they’re once again linked with the Argentina international ahead of the January window:
— IndyFootball (@IndyFootball) October 25, 2014
Aged 28, Garay is at the height of his career and made it to back-to-back Europa League finals with Benfica, in addition to winning the Primeira Liga title last season. Here’s a clip of the South American in action:
Bizarrely however, considering the obviousness of United’s desperate need for added quality and leadership at the heart of defence, the Red Devils stood by during the summer as the towering centre-back joined Zenit St. Petersburg for a mere £12million.
If United wish to bring him to Old Trafford in January, it will now likely cost them around double that fee.
The defensive signing all Manchester United fans hoped for but never arrived, the Red Devils were strongly linked to German international Mats Hummels throughout the summer:
— Barclays League (@BarclaysLeague) August 10, 2014
A World Cup winner and Champions League finalist, famed for his Franz-Beckenbaeur-esque ability to carry the ball out of defence and join the attack, the 25 year-old would have been the perfect upgrade for the heart of Manchester United’s backline. Here’s a clip of Hummels in action:
And a look at his stats over the last few seasons:
He’s got history with Louis van Gaal too, having briefly worked together at Bayern Munich, but the 6 foot 4 centre-back rejected United’s advances during the summer, instead accepting the Black-Yellows’ club captaincy.
There’s been some interesting developments since then however; firstly, Dortmund have plummeted to 16th in the Bundesliga, just a point above the relegation zone, and secondly, the Westfalen outfit have named their price for Hummels – a whopping £47million:
— Express Football (@ExpressFootball) November 20, 2014
United showed their willingness to spend during the summer, so a January swoop for that precise fee can’t be ruled out.
Manchester United forked out a £30million sum to land Luke Shaw during the summer, a world-record fee for a full-back, but the teenage defender is already looking like he’ll be worth every penny in a few years’ time.
The 19 year-old has improved his fitness and rarely put a foot wrong since making his first Premier League appearance for the Red Devils in September. Here’s a clip of the England international in action:
Perhaps not a signing on par with Radamel Falcao or Angel Di Maria in terms its Hollywood effect, but now-West Ham loanee Alex Song was on the Red Devils’ radar this summer:
— FootballFanCast.com (@FootballFanCast) August 19, 2014
The Cameroon international failed to cement a first team role for himself during two years at Barcelona and was searching for a return to the Premier League in the off-season, some even mooting a return to former club Arsenal.
Manchester United’s midfield has depended on Marouane Fellaini for physical presence this season but Song probably would have been a better option. He’s far more reliable defensively and proven at a higher level, with 54 Champions League outings and 47 international caps under his belt. Here’s a clip of the 27 year-old in action:
It’s possible the Old Trafford side launched a bid for Song, but the tough-tackling midfielder always wanted a move back to London.
He’s been enjoying some strong form for the Hammers, playing a significant role in their surprise rise to 6th in the Premier League.
The dynamic presence United’s midfield is still crying out for, the Red Devils came close to signing Arturo Vidal during the summer never got the deal over the line, perhaps due to the Juventus star’s well-documented knee problems.
Regardless however, the Chile international has risen to the forefront of the world’s central midfield elite since joining the Old Lady in 2011, going on to win three consecutive Serie A titles and net 31 goals in 103 league appearances for the Italian champs. Here’s a look at his stats:
And a clip of the 27 year-old in action:
Despite further knee injuries reducing Vidal’s game-time somewhat this term, recent rumours claim the Red Devils could reignite their interest in January:
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) November 22, 2014
It’s believed Louis van Gaal will attempt to land Netherlands favourite Kevin Strootman first however, who is two years Vidal’s junior.
Manchester United are a winger short and recent speculation claims Louis van Gaal could even bring Nani back to Old Trafford in January, cutting short his loan spell at former club Sporting Lisbon.
It makes you wonder however why the Red Devils didn’t take more significant strides to land rumoured target Juan Cuadrado during the summer:
— Manchester United (@MUFC_today) August 25, 2014
The Colombian international absolutely destroyed Serie A last season and brought his form to the World Cup, as shown below:
In fact, nobody bettered his four assists at Brazil 2014 and Cuadrado has started the current season in a similar vein:
Combining pace, trickery, ruthless athleticism and netting prowess, this goal typifies the South American:
His mixture of industry, quality and threat-in-behind would have been perfect for a Red Devils side that’s lacked natural penetration going forward this season.
Cuadrado signed a new contract in October but it included a £27million release clause, so United could return for the 26 year-old in the New Year.
Named Manchester United’s new captain in August and long-billed as the poster boy of the post-Ferguson era at Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney’s place in the starting Xi was never in doubt despite Louis van Gaal splashing out an incredible £150million during the summer.
He’s been in habitually strong form this season, as shown below:
And after some experimentation with his role in the first team, it’s now clear that van Gaal prefers the 29 year-old at No.10.
The most expensive signing in Manchester United and British football history, £59million acquisition Angel Di Maria hasn’t disappointed since moving to Old Trafford in August.
He’s already established himself as one of the Premier League’s stand-out stars, as detailed below:
The highlight of his United tenure thus far? This absolute stunner against Leicester City:
A firm favourite of Louis van Gaal and with readily-available world-class strikers in rather short supply during the summer, the United gaffer was always going to give Robin van Persie the nod in the lone front-man role.
Perhaps that was a bit of a faux pas however; the Netherlands international has netted just three times from eleven Premier League starts this year and at 31, his age is really beginning to tell.
He netted a vital strike to claim United a point against Chelsea however and would likely be faring better right now with this impressive select Xi behind him.