Is Manchester United's Summer Recruitment Drive Going Overboard?
As Manchester United's extensive rebuilding process continues, The Red Devils' fanbase grows increasingly furvent in anticipation of what the new season might bring. But with a near-overhaul of his side on the horizon, has Louis Van Gaal moved forward too far, too soon?
At the end of the 2014/15 campaign, with United finishing in fourth spot, Van Gaal had achieved the minimum target for the season. Nevertheless, both his tactics and his squad had flattered to deceive on frequent occasions. The evidence was clear that United and Van Gaal had to make wholesale changes - particularly in defence - but not exclusively.
To begin with, Dutchman Van Gaal moved quickly for his compatriot and former international charge, Memphis Depay. Even back in May, Depay was likely to be only the first of a multi-milion pound puzzle. With David De Gea's future with heirs of Real Madrid in it, the rumours then began to spread like wildfire that Sergio Ramos could be an explosive addition in the transfer market and part of a possible deal with Los Blancos. United meanwhile were busying tying up deals for Matteo Darmian of Torino and Sothampton's Morgan Scheneiderlin. Then of course, came the hugely unexpected arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Returning to United's defence, all areas were a key focus for Louis Van Gaal, but thus far only Darmian in the right-back berth has altered their defensive make-up. Darmian will likely be a very good addition and kept the likes of Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney quiet during England and Italy's meeting in last summer's World Cup. Even so, his impact is yet to be determined.
Worth pondering also is that after all the rumours and reports of targets, if United do not get Ramos, or indeed Valencia's Nicolas Otamendi, they will still be left with a defensive stronghold of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. With Van Gaal looking for the glamourous signing, is he neglecting his main priority of shoring up his error-prone defence?
Focussing on the midfield area, Schweinsteiger's arrival brings a huge wealth of talent and experience to Manchester United's game. But whilst on the European stage he is a rock-solid performer, would the 30 year-old - on a week in, week out basis - be caught out by the pace of the Premier League? Let us not forget that last term for Bayern Munich, Schweinsteiger was deposed to the bench by his elder, Xabi Alonso on a frequent basis.
So with the addition of Schneiderlin, will we see a rotation scenario between the two? Looking at the bigger picture also in the middle of the park, the Frenchman and Schweinsteriger will be competing with Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Daley Blind, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini for two or three places in the starting eleven - even with the expected deaprture of Angel Di Maria. There is more than one suggestion that United may have a case of too many cooks, on their hands.
United's front line paints a differing picture. Depay is likely to be deployed as a left winger or a number 10 - depending on which system Van Gaal opts for. The opposite flank is less clear. Juan Mata could slot in effortlessly as he did for much of the second part of last season, but with growing rumours of Thomas Muller becoming the club's second raid on Die Roten in the past month, the World Cup and Champions League winner would clearly become the first choice.
After the departure of Robin van Persie to Turkey, it has been suggested that Wayne Rooney would once again become United's main striker, however should Muller arrive, Rooney's role could further be stymied. If not the latter, both Ashley Young and Adnan Januzaj could once more find themselves out in the harsh Manchester cold.
With just a few weeks until the 2015/16 campaign kicks off, Manchester would seem to be heading toward a squad capable of competing on all fronts, full of both youth and experience, young and veteran. However, as with any influx of new talent - especially with Louis Van Gaal's wavering tactical approach - striking a harmony within the squad whilst attempting to build a solid unit, will take time. With more faces expected to arrive before the transfer window slams shut at the end of August, Van Gaal is burdened with that task.
...and with the net spending at Old Trafford perhaps set to reach £300 million is the close season, the Dutchman's reputation may yet be on the line.