Louis van Gaal might take some extra time before officially taking the reigns of Manchester United after an impressive start to the World Cup by the Netherlands. Once he does take over, he faces the difficult task of quickly turning the Red Devils back into title contenders.
Mediocre results aren't acceptable at Old Trafford, as David Moyes found out. No matter how his run with the Dutch national team ends, the pressure will be on Van Gaal to deliver a couple of marquee signings followed by improved results early in the new campaign.
Up first, the transfer activity. It's setting up to become a busy summer for United, which doesn't come as much of a surprise. So let's check out some of the latest talk making its way around Europe concerning the high-profile club.
Vermaelen struggled to find consistent playing time in the middle of a crowded Arsenal back line last season. His form proceeded to drop markedly as an occasional starter. Finding a club where he would be a bigger piece of the puzzle is the best thing that could happen for him.
It sounds like he may have found it. Matt Law of The Telegraph reports that an agreement has already been reached in principle between the defender and Manchester United. He notes there's still work to do before the switch is complete, though:
Thomas Vermaelen, the Arsenal captain, has agreed a deal in principle to join Manchester United this summer. United must now try to negotiate a fee with Arsenal after the World Cup finals, but Vermaelen hopes to move to Old Trafford and is preparing to leave the Emirates Stadium.
United would be taking a chance that Vermaelen is able to rediscover his prior form. It's a chance worth taking considering the side's defensive struggles against top foes last season. At his best, the Belgian international is the rock in the middle that the Red Devils need to solidify the back line.
Shaw is one of the most promising young players in the Premier League. His second Premier League season with Southampton was far steadier than his first. If he continues on his current path, he has the potential to become a world-class left-back.
There was a time immediately after the campaign ended when it seemed like a move to United was almost a foregone conclusion. That's no longer the case. Jonathan Northcroft of the Sunday Times reports that a bid was rejected and no deal is imminent:
It is understood no agreement has been reached on a fee for Shaw and nor are United even near to persuading Southampton to sell their coveted teenager. Any transfer involving Shaw will have to wait until after the England squad return from Brazil—and United are not the only club coveting Shaw.
Clubs around the Premier League know Shaw's value is likely only going to rise. The 18-year-old defender is a special talent, so landing him now would be a nice coup for the Red Devils. It sounds like they will really need to step up their efforts after the World Cup to make it happen, however.
Which player is most likely to join United?
Vidal has been a force in the middle for Juventus and Bayer Leverkusen before that. His all-around ability is something few midfielders in the world can match, and he is still near the peak of his powers. He would be a welcome addition to a United midfield that has depth but lacks in-form star power.
Chisanga Malata of the Daily Star reports that the Chile international is firmly on Van Gaal's radar for potential acquisitions following the World Cup. The manager even admitted he's been a longtime admirer of the midfielder: "Chile have very dangerous players. ... I always wanted to buy Vidal when he was at Bayer Leverkusen but he went to Juventus."
Players of Vidal's caliber are exactly what United need in order to force their way back into the title picture sooner rather than later. He also represents the type of talent Moyes wasn't able to land during his first summer in charge. Fans will soon find out if Van Gaal can have more success.