“At this moment, we have five No.9s and four No.10s – and we don’t have wingers to give us attacking width.
Or, I should say, we don’t have wingers of the highest level, like Ronaldo or Di Maria or somebody like that. So, I have to play in another way – and you have seen that already. I only buy when I think we need to buy – in the position that is necessary.”
Those were the words of Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal earlier this month, and the ‘Iron Tulip’ has since begun to clear out what he obviously believes to be deadwood in the Old Trafford wing ranks.
Nani has returned to Sporting Lisbon on loan as part of the deal that took centre-half Marcos Rojo to the north west, while Wilfried Zaha – who Van Gaal indicatively counted as one of his five centre-forwards – could be on his way to QPR.
Neither were deemed worthy of places out wide in a Van Gaal 4-4-2/4-5-1, formations the Dutchman has utilised most frequently during his 23 seasons as a coach, as the 63-year-old has gone with a similar 3-4-1-2 shape that served the Netherlands so well at the World Cup.
However, the above quotes strongly indicate that the Red Devils chief will revert to a four-at-the-back strategy with wingers if he can bring a couple of key new faces to the Theatre of Dreams.
The gossip columns can’t seem to figure out whether United’s long-trailed pursuit of Angel Di Maria is still on, with recent reports suggesting Van Gaal has passed on the Argentine.
Going by the lavish praise heaped on the Real Madrid man by Van Gaal less than three weeks ago, conflicting reports that the 26-year-old is in talks with the 13-time Premier League champions seem closer to the mark.
Speculation that United will utilise Di Maria in midfield alongside summer capture from Spain Ander Herrera also seem wide of the mark, given Van Gaal’s comments and the likelihood that board supremo Ed Woodward will sanction more signings in the club’s long-held ‘problem position’.
Were United to add Di Maria and a midfielder of Juventus’ Arturo Vidal’s ilk to a squad that has already been bolstered by Herrera, Rojo and left-back Luke Shaw this summer, their 3/4 odds on a return to the top four, which were available with bwin.com prior to their trip to Sunderland, won’t be seen for dust.
Van Gaal’s men are also 3/4 to grab their first win of the 2014/15 campaign at the Stadium of Light, with Gus Poyet’s Black Cats at 7/2 and the draw 13/5.