Louis Van Gaal might not have been officially appointed as Manchester United’s new manager yet, in fact he probably won’t be officially announced until Sunday, but the Holland manager has reportedly already handed Ed Woodward three lists of desired players, with players in the A list the hardest to get but also the one the Dutchman is likely to pursuit first.
It’s a pragmatic and rather radical change from the shambles that unfolded 12 months ago, when United only had two lists: one including just about every Barcelona midfielder, the other including anybody who played for Everton.
With Ed Woodward still pulling the strings of his very own show, it’s hard to fathom United securing all their A-list targets this summer, but even two from a list containing Arjen Robben, Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller among the others would go a long way in giving the squad a huge lift on and off the pitch.
The Guardian today reported that each list contains around five names, so who’s likely to be on Van Gaal’s A-list?
1) Toni Kroos
The German international would have risked becoming the Cesc Fabregas of 2014 had David Moyes remained in charge of United, given the blatant and clumsy attempt from United to lure Kroos away from Bavaria on the basis of him allegedly being unhappy at Bayern. Kroos was instead the latest player to use United to strengthen his bargaining position at his club and get himself an improved contract, but with Louis Van Gaal set to take over, the 24-year-old could well be subject of a serious bid.
Kroos’ deal runs out in 12 months and the German international is everything United have sorely missed in their engine room: quick, versatile, boasting an excellent technique and tactically very disciplined.
2) Thomas Mueller
Mueller has been linked with United in the past, though nothing concrete ever came of it, particularly considering that the German international has become a cornerstone for the Bavarian giants in the last couple of seasons. If Mueller’s name is on Van Gaal’s list, then the 62-year-old will have to work really hard to prize the player whom he handed his Bayern Munich debut away from the Allianz Arena, for Mueller is under contract until 2017 and Bayern value him at around £40m.
Mueller can play anywhere up-front, as right winger, striker or attacking midfielder and has netted 25 times this season, as Bayern won the Bundesliga at a canter. Why would Mueller leave Bavaria is anyone’s guess, though Van Gaal was the manager responsible for handing the German his first big opportunity at Bayern Munich and was a pivotal figure in Mueller’s development.
3) Arjen Robben
Much like Mueller, Robben is one of Bayern’s most important players and another one who’s unlikely to leave Bavaria anytime soon and, even if he suddenly got itchy feet at the Allianz Arena, he’d cost United over £20m, a sizeable fee for a player who’s already 30-years-old. Having said that, Robben would be a breath of fresh air given the appalling state of United’s wingers and he’s thrived under Van Gaal before, with the Holland coach responsible for bringing him to Bayern in 2009 and a winger capable of producing 20 goals and 17 assists in a season is something United can only dream of.
4) Mats Hummels
Not an exciting as name as any of three mentioned above, but the Borussia Dortmund defender would be a fantastic signing for United. At only 25 years of age, Hummels already has bags of experience, having played over 150 league games with Borussia Dortmund – with whom he won two consecutive Bundesliga titles – and having played every game in Germany’s Euro 2012 campaign. Physically imposing and with great technique for a centre-back – Hummels was often deployed as defensive midfielder for Germany U21 – the German international has traits in common with Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.
The 25-year-old is under contract with Dortmund until 2017, but his name is likely to be one of those that Van Gaal wants to see ticked by the time he takes over at the club.
5) Luke Shaw
The Southampton left-back has emerged as United’s main transfer target in the last couple of days and considering Patrice Evra might soon leave and Alex Buttner isn’t a Premier League by any stretch of imagination, the England international looks to be an excellent bet. Shaw’s £30m price-tag has had some shaking their heads in disbelief, but a glance at Rio Ferdinand’s trophy cabinet suggests that investing on a young defender might not be such a silly thing to do after all – even though Ferdinand was much more experienced when he joined United than Shaw is at the moment.
At Barcelona and Bayern Munich Van Gaal has always opted for marauding left-backs, Sergi in Catalonia and Philip Lahm at Bayern and Shaw would fit the bill at United.