At the end of last season Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal spoke of needing to sign several players to bring balance to his squad. The higher ups at the club made it clear that van Gaal would have plenty of money to spend on summer transfers, and before the season even concluded, £25 million was spent on Dutch winger Memphis Depay.
The Depay signing looked to be a sign of things to come — United would be able to spend their money and bring in the players they wanted and were heavily linked with.
Then the season ended, the transfer window opened, and nothing happened. As the weeks went by, fans were questioning why the team wasn’t doing anything despite having a lot that needed to be done. With the David de Gea situation looming over everyone’s head, some fans, including this writer, wondered if United were simply waiting to resolve the de Gea issue before moving on to the rest of their needs.
That all changed this weekend when United moved swiftly and quickly to sign not one, not two, but three new players in four days. It started Friday when the club announced the signing of Italian right back Matteo Darmain in a £12.7m deal. On Saturday it was announced that Manchester United and Bayern Munich had agreed to a £14m fee for Bayern and German star, and one of United’s main transfer targets, Bastian Schweinsteiger.
With the addition of a right back and a world-class central midfielder to help bolster the midfield you would have expected United to move on to one of their other targets (I don’t know, like a CB or a striker?) with the midfield now seemingly wrapped up. United had been linked with several central midfielders but surely those were just the players on their wish list and once they got one of them they’d move on. Right?
You can only imagine my shock Sunday night when Sky Sports reported that French international Morgan Schneiderlin was having a medical at Old Trafford.
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) July 12, 2015
Monday morning United confirmed they had agreed to a £25 million deal with Southampton for Schneiderlin and just like that the club was taking off for their pre-season tour of the United States with three new faces.
The weekend of signings gives United fans many reasons to be optimistic for the upcoming season. For the past few weeks we had heard rumors of both Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger coming to Old Trafford. Fans were split on each of them, with some being skeptical of Schweinsteiger’s advanced age and injury record, and others being wary of Schneiderlin’s inexperience in Europe. Instead of having to choose one or the other, United now fall into a perfect scenario where they get both.
In Schweinsteiger, United get one of the most respected players who comes with experience, leadership, and has won at both the club and international level. Schweinsteiger offers versatility as well as he can sit back and play the Michael Carrick role, or be used further up the field. With Schneiderlin, the Red Devils get one of the best up and coming box-to-box midfielders in the Premier League. Schneiderlin arrives having been the linchpin behind Southampton’s resurgence in recent years and was the key to the team finishing in seventh place last season.
With these moves United get a midfielder who is still world-class along with another midfielder who, especially with the help of Schweinsteiger, can become world-class in a few years.
One of the things Louis van Gaal spoke of most often last season was that he inherited an unbalanced squad when he took over Manchester United. At the end of last season, van Gaal said in order to truly compete for trophies both domestically and in Europe, United would need at least two good players at each position.
The signings of Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin will do wonders for United’s depth in midfield. By the end of last season, it was clear that United not only had no cover for Michael Carrick, but really struggled to win without him. United now have four players they can play in the middle of the park and will have options on how they’d like to use them.
Last season van Gaal often opted to play Carrick by himself in front of the back four and send his other midfielders up the field in the attack. He can continue to do that with either Schweinsteiger or Schneiderlin or even play the two midfielders together to allow for different kinds of attacks.
With the new depth in midfield United will now shift to a more midfield based team then a team built around strikers, reducing the need to have as many strikers behind Wayne Rooney. United are likely to only use one strikers a lot more often this season as they can slot either Juan Mata or Marouanne Fellaini into the no. 10 role behind Rooney.
The most important aspect of these signings is that they show a strategy from Louis van Gaal. Last season van Gaal joined United just before their preseason tour and didn’t fully have time to assess his squad. This led to everything being rushed on the back end of the transfer window and rushing to bring in players that were available but didn’t necessarily fit.
This season van Gaal is going after players that fit a need in the team. Furthermore four players have now been brought in prior to United’s preseason tour, which will give them the entire preseason to begin learning and gelling with their new squad.
With David de Gea joining the team for their tour of the United States things are currently looking bright in the red half of Manchester. Now if they could only go sign a defender and a backup striker please!