How Man Utd could have lined up under Van Gaal if he got his wishlist

Sergio Ramos at centre back, N’Golo Kante in midfield and Gonzalo Higuain up front… how Manchester United COULD have lined up under Louis van Gaal if the former manager was able to sign any of his 10 transfer targets

  • Louis van Gaal has claimed Manchester United failed to sign 10 of his targets
  • Van Gaal was Red Devils manager for two seasons between 2014 and 2016 
  • The Dutchman was keen to add star quality to the squad with the likes of Neymar
  • Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels and Sergio Ramos were others he wanted 

Louis van Gaal’s time at Manchester United may have ended four years ago but that doesn’t mean his war or words with the club has.

Van Gaal’s two-year reign at Old Trafford came to a bittersweet halt on May 23, 2016 when he was sacked – despite having just won the FA Cup two days prior.

Since his brutal dismissal, the outspoken Dutchman has had a lot to say about the handling of the club under executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

Louis van Gaal has reignited his war of words with those high up at Manchester United

Van Gaal says the club failed to land any of his 10 major targets during his two years at the club

The Dutchman was sacked by United just two days after winning the FA Cup in May 2016

United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward (left) failed to acquire any of Van Gaal’s targets

And on Monday, Van Gaal threw his latest jibe at Woodward by claiming he wasn’t able to sign the players he wanted – citing 10 targets.

‘I wanted Robert Lewandowski, but when this proved difficult I tried to get Gonzalo Higuain instead,’ he told FourFourTwo in an interview.

‘Before I had arrived, I also spoke with the board about Neymar. If you are at United, you have to think big – he was also interesting for the club in terms of selling shirts, and I wanted to have quick wingers.

‘For that reason, I also tried to get Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez. Thomas Muller was on my wish list, too, and in central midfield, I wanted N’Golo Kante. I even tried to sign James Milner, who was already quite old but very multi-functional and possessed leadership skills.

‘After I left, players like Mahrez and Kanté ended up at Manchester City and Chelsea, while United couldn’t get them. I found that very odd.’

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski was a target but proved too difficult to sign 

Brazilian star Neymar, then at Barcelona, was also considered for a big-money move to United

While the notion of Van Gaal being able to sign all of those players are fancy, Sportsmail has taken a ‘fun’ look at what his team could have been had he been able to land some of those targets.

The goalkeeping position would remain with David de Gea. During Van Gaal’s reign he was linked with a move to Real Madrid but the Spaniard stayed due to the ill-fated fax-machine incident. It was to United’s relief as his stunning form continued to help push his cause as the best goalkeeper in the world at the time.

At right back would be Antonio Valencia who, like De Gea, was another player Van Gaal inherited. The 69-year-old did sign Matteo Darmian in his second season but we’re giving Valencia the nod.

Van Gaal spoke of his issue at centre back so we’ve given him his wish of a Ramos-Hummels centre-back partnership. Real Madrid legend Ramos was the subject of a £26.8m offer from United in June 2015 but decided to remain at the Santiago Bernabeu instead where his decision was justified by their ensuing dominance in the Champions League. 


Sergio Ramos (left) and Mats Hummels were Van Gaal’s first-choice centre-back targets

Hummels was also wanted by United that summer but chose to remain at Borussia Dortmund. Both in their primes, those two would have provided a formidable base for Van Gaal to start from with De Gea behind them.

At left back is Daley Blind. The versatile Dutchman was deployed at centre back, left back and central defensive midfield under Van Gaal – such was his footballing intelligence. He gets the nod at left back over Luke Shaw due to the latter’s unfortunate double-break of his right leg away at PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League at the start of Van Gaal’s reign.

It’s a midfield two of Michael Carrick and Kante in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Veteran Carrick would have provided the nous as a deep-lying midfielder, while Kante would be the box-to-box menace that took the Premier League by storm in 2015-16 as Leicester City won a fairytale Premier League. 

However, hindsight is a wonderful thing though. Kante was a relative unknown quantity when he joined Leicester in August 2015 from Caen and surely the pulling power of United could have outweighed a Leicester side who narrowly avoided relegation the season before?

N’Golo Kante played a key role as Leicester won the 2015-16 Premier League in his debut term

Playing in front of those two would be an attacking trio of Muller, Wayne Rooney and Mane. All three would offer something different in attack.

Muller is someone Van Gaal knows well having managed him at Bayern Munich and the German has an uncanny knack of creating space for himself and others, while tending to be in the right place at the right time on the pitch. 

Muller would’ve played on the right-hand side, with Mane on the left. The Senegalese had demonstrated his potential at Southampton and has since blossomed following his arrival at Liverpool in the summer of 2016. Quick, strong and an eye for a goal the forward would have provided a cutting edge to United who were criticised for being pedestrian under Van Gaal. 

And then in between Muller and Mane would be Manchester United captain Rooney. The club’s all-time leading goalscorer would have flourished with those two either side of him – be it in terms of creating chances for them or finishing them off. Neymar doesn’t feature as he was part of sublime front three at Barcelona with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez that won the Champions League in 2015 and therefore seems unlikely he would have left a club he joined in 2013.

Sadio Mane (left) had shown his talent at Southampton and would’ve been a hit at Old Trafford

Spearheading Van Gaal’s side would be Higuain. Any notion of signing Lewandowski appear fanciful considering he would have embarked on just his second season at Bayern Munich in 2014-15 and third in 2015-16. 

Higuain floundered at Chelsea while on loan from Juventus in 2018-19, but his circumstances may have changed had he moved to the Premier League sooner. During Van Gaal’s two years at United, the Argentine was enjoying a brilliant stint at Napoli scoring goals for fun.

If Van Gaal needed to call upon his bench, we’ve imagined that to be Sergio Romero (as the back-up goalkeeper), defenders Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo, midfielders Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata with a young Anthony Martial as Higuain’s deputy.

Gonzalo Higuain was a scoring phenomenon at Napoli and could’ve bolstered United’s attack

Mane and Higuain could have complimented the skills of then United captain Wayne Rooney

How Sportsmail imagines a Van Gaal line up could have been if any of his targets had joined

The full version of the interview with Louis van Gaal appears in the new issue of FourFourTwo – on sale on Wednesday, August 26.

Also in the 196 page double issue: every Premier League, Championship, League One, League Two and WSL team is reviewed and rated in our big season preview, Phil Foden talks about becoming the full time successor to David Silva at Manchester City.

And ask who can stop Liverpool from retaining their crown For an exclusive MailOnline subscription offer, which includes three issues of FourFourTwo for £3 and free download, go to: https://www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk/mailonline/




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