Interview with Mike Keegan on tactics, transfers and Louis van Gaal

Interview with Mike Keegan on tactics, transfers and Louis van Gaal

The Peoples Person is always looking to bring unique and informative interviews from people in football and this week we’ve been in touch with Manchester-based journalist Mike Keegan to talk about possible arrivals and departures around Old Trafford, as well as a host of other topics.

Hi Mike. Thanks for talking to us. Introduce yourself to the readers.

Mike Keegan, North West Football Reporter, MailOnline. Oldham fan (unfortunately). Ex-BBC Sport and M.E.N. 36, real ale drinker.

There’s been plenty of talk regarding United’s poor start to 2015 under Louis van Gaal. Do you think the Dutchman is under any more pressure on him from the boardroom because of it?

Not really. There’s a sense at United that this is the man and a confidence that he will be a success that perhaps wasn’t there with the man he replaced. Another season outside the top four would hurt but Van Gaal will get the next summer transfer window and at least half of next season. I’d say he would only start coming under pressure if next Christmas comes along and they are outside that top four.

With Southampton, Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City all knocked out of the FA Cup in the last round, what do you make of United’s chances of winning the tournament for the first time since 2004?

Decent – although they will not be the only ones fancying their chances. That said, Arsenal and Liverpool aside, there’s nobody left in there who you would fancy to beat United. I think United fans still carry a torch for the FA Cup and it would mean plenty if they were able to win it.

“I think they were crazy to only bring in Rojo, absolutely crazy. Players like Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra needed to be replaced.”

It’s been well documented that a big part of Manchester United’s poor form has been down to their leaky defence with Marcos Rojo looking the only reliable centre back this season.Do you feel it’s because of the lack of quality at the back or injuries preventing partnerships being formed?

I think they were crazy to only bring in Rojo, absolutely crazy. Players like Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra needed to be replaced. I think a lot of United fans would tell you that to think the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans could make the step up to replace the departing trio was, to put it in polite terms, naive. They have been unlucky with injuries and I think it’s a testament to Van Gaal’s coaching that their defence has been good enough to get them into the top four.

“Van Gaal doesn’t seem to be his biggest fan and he’s pretty much made that clear at his last couple of Carrington pressers.”

Arguably United’s most disappointing summer signing was the loan of Colombian forward Radamel Falcao. With just three goals to his name this season, do you think he will be signed permanently and if not, will United look for another striker?

I think it was a big gamble given his injury record and one that has not yet paid off. I like him. I think he’s been unlucky with injuries and that, given a run of games, he will soon start putting them away. Whether he gets that chance is another matter. Van Gaal doesn’t seem to be his biggest fan and he’s pretty much made that clear at his last couple of Carrington pressers.

David de Gea has been linked to Real Madrid in recent weeks and with his contract running down. Fans are understandably anxious about his position at the club. Is he looking more likely to sign a new deal at Old Trafford or make a big-money move to Spain?

They want him, and what Real want they usually get. On this one the longer it goes the dicier it gets. You’d like to think that he would repay some of the faith United put in him when he got here and was getting hammered every week. He’s happy in Manchester but he’s a Madrid boy and his girlfriend being there won’t help United’s cause.

Time is running out for the club to bring in new faces this month and with many suggesting they need at least two new players to cement a top four spot, how vital do you feel it is that United strengthen?

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out which positions need strengthening but it’s a case of is there anything out there available now that would be an improvement? I’m not convinced there is.

“All window the noises coming from inside Old Trafford have been that they are very unlikely to do anything before the summer. “

Speaking of January additions, is it looking likely that anyone will join Victor Valdes in becoming a red this winter?

All window the noises coming from inside Old Trafford have been that they are very unlikely to do anything before the summer. The manager’s point, as mentioned above, is that there isn’t really anyone available right now who would improve what he already has.

There have been stories about Mats Hummels and if his availability status changes then he might be on his way over. We are told not to expect much activity but you never know. Things change all the time and Ed Woodward knows (from painful experience) that he needs to move quickly.

“Steve Bruce is interested in taking Nick Powell to Hull [on loan] and I think that would be a decent fit.”

Darren Fletcher and Wilfried Zaha have been linked with moves away in the past few days, is the clear-out likely to continue with more of the squad being trimmed before the window slams shut?

It’s a bloated squad at the moment so don’t rule it out. It’s no secret that Anderson can go should anyone come in for him. I watched the U21s at Leigh and he still looks like he’s carrying but it was freezing so he may well have had a few layers on.

It would be good to see Nick Powell go to a Premier League club and get some games under his belt. I still think there is a decent player in there but for one reason or another his loan moves haven’t worked out. Steve Bruce is interested in taking him to Hull and I think that would be a decent fit. Jesse Lingard is an interesting one. His contract is up at the end of the season and he’s been linked with a loan move but I think Van Gaal rates him, despite his debut, and he may well get another chance at Old Trafford.

From the two you have mentioned, I think Fletcher’s contract issues have been or are close to being resolved so I’d expect him to be on his way. As for Zaha, it’s a case of whether anyone can come up with the cash for him. I know £10m has been mentioned and I don’t think many will see him as value at that price.

Finally Mike, many have been calling for the axe of the 3-5-2 and a return to the 4-4-2 diamond in an attempt to get the team playing attractive football once again. Do you think Van Gaal will stick by his continental tactics for much longer or not?

I think he will. He’s stubborn but he is not stupid so if he doesn’t see signs of improvement he will knock it on the head. But he genuinely feels that 3-5-2 gives United their best balance. He thinks that more practice will breed familiarity. Look on the bright side – they are in fourth and are not playing that well. If they do get better – and I think they will – Champions League should be on its way back next season.

Thanks to Mike for having a chat with us. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Is there a journalist or person in football you’d like us to have a chat to? Let us know in the comments.

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