Finally, this ‘season horribilis’ has come to a sorry end. Steven Gerrard’s slip aside, there have been few highlights and it feels like a season lost rather than a season in transition. Hindsight has shown how poor an appointment David Moyes was yet the board should know learn from their mistakes, notably not listening to a previous manager’s final wish.
There is such a huge rebuilding job at hand that, put simply, the club need to employ someone with big cajones. Though it may be unfair to compare and contrast with the appointment of Moyes, it was easy to see he was never worthy of growing into the job. A decent mid-table manager that was dropped into deep water, the club now need to find someone who has the requisite credentials. A man who comes with a tried and tested guarantee.
Reports suggest that Louis van Gaal will soon be announced and he certainly seems better suited. Then again, you wonder quite why he was not mentioned this time last year, certainly not in the same vein as Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelloti or Jurgen Klopp were. This could be due to the lack of Champions League football next season or perhaps all three are settled in their current clubs or, most probably, the job seems so difficult few want to apply.
If it is Van Gaal, then he should be able to give the squad the kick up the arse you felt Moyes could never deliver. This is a man you simply do not cross, a man who does not accept second-rate performances. At 62, this should not be a long-term appointment but that is not necessarily a bad thing. If anything, his tenure could be the jolt the club need to get it back to the top table and return the fear factor to Old Trafford, he certainly has the scowl for it.
Make no mistake, this is a huge summer for the club. Should Van Gaal be confirmed, the next step is securing transfer targets. If the board have learnt anything from last season it is that the groundwork for signing talent has to be decisive and quick.
Big bucks will have to be spent recreating a spine to the team starting with finding replacements for Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra. The midfield still needs to be beefed up and maybe even a striker would not go amiss. Reports suggest that United have already tabled a £27 million bid for Southampton’s Luke Shaw and you can expect more of the same. With the club needing to return to the Champions League as soon as, the possible outlay will be significant. Then again, would any chief executive in their right mind say no to Van Gaal?
The Dutchman has such an arrogance that he can make big decisions and have the gumption to stick by them. He is known to be uncompromising and you wonder what this means for so many players who seem to have been coasting it for large parts of the season. Specifically this could be bad news for Wayne Rooney who has a habit of returning after the summer a few pounds overweight. Surely Van Gaal would favour Robin van Persie despite Rooney’s bumper contract.
Big clubs need managers with big personalities and while Moyes never really sat well in the hotseat, Van Gaal would feel right at home. Quotes like saying Liverpool would be favourites or that the team should aspire to Manchester City’s level were laughable for any manager, let alone that of Manchester United.
A recent interview saw a Sky Sports News reporter ask Van Gaal what he knew about United, he replied: “A stupid question I think. It’s the biggest club in the world. What do you know about Manchester United?” That is the soundbite of a United manager.
One of the lasting impressions from this season has been how poor the football has been. The impact of a manager who began his career as a defender produced some truly turgid football.
Thankfully Van Gaal comes equipped with a strong personality and a belief in attacking play and exciting football, something the fans sorely miss. He has built teams with a basis in young talent, is used to success and will not settle for failure. His CV comes with a European Cup yet he also has something to prove. At 62, Van Gaal may not be the long-term fix but he may be exactly what the club needs right now.