In the latest interview on The Peoples Person, we had a chat with European football specialist and journalist Andy Brassell to get his insight on Manchester United’s summer spending, how he thinks they have settled at the club and we also discuss the upcoming transfer windows for the club.
Hi Andy. Thanks for chatting to us. Can you introduce yourself to the readers?
I write and talk on various strands of European football for various different people (Guardian, BT Sport, ESPN, Who Scored, Talksport, several others). I travel a lot (especially Portugal, Spain, Germany, France) and so get plenty of first-hand glimpses of what’s going on, too.
First off, how do you think Manchester United’s season has gone so far?
Not terribly, but not brilliantly either. It’s too early to jump to any definite conclusions but that they’re already in the top four – which surely has to be the season’s target, if you think a title shot is a touch optimistic – with plenty of room to grow shows real progress. That Angel Di Maria and Ander Herrera, for example, already carry the swagger of proper United players is very positive too.
Do you think there is any reason for United fans to be concerned about Louis van Gaal‘s ability to succeed at Old Trafford?
No. As I said, that United are a work-in-progress is self-evident, but the signs of progress are positive. What has become more clear in the opening few months of the season, however, is just how much useful spadework José Mourinho did in the year or so to make Chelsea what they are today. That planning not only means the gap between them and the rest is big, but it’ll take a while and some good planning to bridge, in my opinion.
Manchester United spent £150m on transfers in the summer. Do you think it was all money well spent?
I’m not convinced that it was. There’s no doubt Angel Di Maria, for example, was a great catch but they really overpaid for him. That, and the inability to get some necessary other deals done (defenders especially) suggests that there is still plenty to improve upon in terms of their approach to the transfer market. Even though people are deeply suspicious of it in England, I think a director of football model is the most practical; somebody who takes the coach’s needs into account, but then goes and gets on with negotiating the deals himself, taking into account the club’s long-term planning, minimising waste and allowing the coach to just get on with looking after the team.
As is always the case, Manchester United are being linked with players left, right and centre. What are you hearing about who United are considering making moves for?
I wouldn’t claim to have the inside track on exactly what’s going on, but I think it’s interesting that the Ezequiel Garay story won’t go away, either here or in Russia. He’s a terrific player, and I think it’s a great shame for United that they let him get away in summer 2013. He has that perfect mix of technique and toughness so if there was the possibility of getting him (which is by no means for sure), then they should have a go.
Diego Godin and Mats Hummels are 2 players who have been linked with moves to Manchester United. Which do you think would be the better option?
On a purely defensive level, I think Godin is a little more trustworthy. He was one of the outstanding defenders in the Champions League (as well as La Liga) last season Hummels always has the odd mistake in him but is more of a footballing centre-back, so the former is a by-product of the latter to a large extent. Defending by the seat of your pants is a way of life in the Premier League and given his superior ability to start off attacks, I’d vote Hummels.
Do you think Kevin Strootman will join Manchester United?
Maybe at some point, but not in January. He needs to work his way back into form and fitness. It’s clear than van Gaal is a big fan and he is a player that would really help map out the way that Van Gaal wants to play the game, with his passing using the full width of the pitch. One aspect of his situation which might help United get him is that Roma’s midfield has come so far without him, with Nainggolan and Pjanic looking very good next to De Rossi. So let’s see.
From your own perspective, name 3 players you feel Manchester United should be looking to sign and why?
The first two are obvious picks – Garay (if it’s doable) and Victor Valdes.
Valdes is a great ‘keeper, comfy coming off his line which is handy and ultimately (sorry chaps), I do feel De Gea will go if Real Madrid really decide to push for him. The third is probably an obvious one too; a midfielder who can defend and (just as importantly) shuttle the ball forward into the opposition half. Arturo Vidal would be a game changer, but I have doubts over just how fit he is, ever since the World Cup. Sami Khedira would an interesting – if less dynamic – alternative.