Like some kind of slightly pissed-off-looking Zen Master, Louis Van Gaal is searching for balance.
“Of course that’s the case. I’m looking for balance and I need it in midfield,” the Manchester United manager told reporters. “The last games I played with Adnan Januzaj and Ángel Di María in the midfield positions. Then you need a certain balance for those kind of creative players. So when you have these creative players and you think that [Radamel] Falcao and [Robin] van Persie are also creative, then you have four creative players. Then you have to look for balance in your team.”
This sounds ominous for last summer’s $40 million midfield solution, Ander Herrera, who in the space of a couple of months has gone from box-to-box to bench-to-bench. Juan Mata can’t feel much better about his place, either.
Van Gaal also signed Di María and Daley Blind for a combined cost of more than $100 million but has taken to playing Wayne Rooney in midfield, because Rooney never complains and is willing to run and fetch wherever his master tells him, like a red-jerseyed cocker spaniel.
But it’s not Van Gaal’s fault the squad lacks balance. These things take time, and money. Lots of time, lots of money. Eventually, if you wait around for a couple of years and spend $1 billion on new players, everything will fall into place perfectly. Like magic.
United is literally paying the price for Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to let Paul Pogba go to Juventus in 2012, after the former manager appeared to fall out with the French midfielder over his lack of first-team opportunities.
Nor did Ferguson successfully replace Paul Scholes when he retired in 2011 – hence Scholes coming out of retirement the following year. Then David Moyes spent all his money on Marouane Fellaini.
Tom Cleverley turned out not to be the answer, unless the question was “who got farmed out on a season-long loan to Aston Villa?” Darren Fletcher was sidelined with illness in 2011, missed the best part of the next couple of years and is now at West Brom. Michael Carrick’s getting old.
United has enough creative types; what they need to restore “balance” is someone who brings the fear factor. Long story short, the only viable option is to re-sign Roy Keane. True, he’s 43 and can’t run, but he’d be more effective than most of the club’s current options, simply by standing in the center circle, shouting abuse and kicking anyone who comes near him.