At this stage, you’d be more than a bit surprised if Louis van Gaal was not named the next Manchester United manager.
Every report from both Holland and England suggests it is just a matter of time before he is appointed.
With that in mind, what could Manchester United look like next year under Van Gaal?
Here is what we think his dream XI would be next season.
David de Gea – This one needs zero explanation. Up there with Thibaut Courtois as one of the best young goalkeepers in the world.
Rafael – Unlike last year where he was one of Manchester United’s most improved players, Rafael has had a poor season but he deserves the chance to redeem himself. Van Gaal certainly wouldn’t let Rafael get away with being rash.
Phil Jones – For me, Jones is the number one centre back next season. There’s been too much chopping and changing for him to really blossom at Old Trafford. With Nemanja Vidic going and Rio Ferdinand likely to follow, next year is when we can start seeing the real Jones.
Chris Smalling – This one might cause some debate but Smalling and Jones should become our centre back partnership for the best part of a decade. Having watched them in action at the 2011 European Championships, their natural understanding was obvious. It’s harsh on Jonny Evans but if United can get a central defensive partnership who become England’s future too, it would put us in good stead as you can’t underestimate the importance of stability at the back.
Van Gaal may well choose to bring in a big name defender and if he does, either Smalling or Jones will face some uncertainty.
Luke Shaw – My number one choice to replace Patrice Evra. You don’t see many 18-year-old’s being named in the PFA Team of the Year and Shaw is likely to play in the World Cup too. At 18, that’s pretty impressive. Like Smalling and Jones, you could see Shaw being United’s left-back for a decade – what more could you want?
Juan Mata – There’s no question that Mata will be in the team next season but his position is where the problem lies. Mata’s best position is not out on the wing but he could drift inside. Alternatively, Van Gaal may prefer to play Rooney out wide, where he played to good effect back when our front four was Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney and Berbatov.
Kevin Strootman – Holland’s most promising central midfielder is, in my mind, a given for Van Gaal. Just like his coaching staff, he’ll want to bring in players he can trust and who better than a midfielder he labelled as one of Holland’s most important players for the World Cup before he got injured? Roma might not want to sell but if Van Gaal really wants him, United will pay.
NB – My preference would be Arturo Vidal but Van Gaal is likely to prefer a move for Strootman given that he knows him.
Toni Kroos – Van Gaal brought Kroos through into Bayern Munich’s first team when he was manager and knows him well. Again, familiarity will help him here. Kroos isn’t naturally a holding player but in a 4-3-3, he’d have the freedom to run forward.
Wayne Rooney – Like Mata, his position under Van Gaal will be interesting. No. 10 is clearly his best role but Mata has shown how good he can be in the same role. Rooney will have to adapt to survive under Van Gaal because unlike under Moyes, he won’t get any preferential treatment.
Danny Welbeck – Nobody fights for Manchester United more than Danny and Van Gaal usually goes for pace on the wings, step forward Welbeck. It’s not his preferred position but like Rooney, he’s probably going to have to do a bit of adaptation next season if he is to be involved in Van Gaal’s set-up.
However, if Van Gaal did splash out on a new winger like Marco Reus, Welbeck would have to settle for a squad place.
Robin van Persie – Van Gaal and Van Persie have a great amount of respect for each other and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Van Persie with the captain’s armband next year. Van Gaal knows how to get the best out of Robin so there is every chance we’ll see the 2012/13 version of him return, injuries pending of course.