Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has admitted it is unlikely the club will make any signings in the January window despite their recent poor form.
The Dutchman was speaking after another unconvincing display from his team, as a late Wayne Rooney penalty helped the Red Devils overcome League One Sheffield United 1-0 in the FA Cup third round on Saturday. Van Gaal wouldn’t completely rule out making any additions but sought to dampen speculation, which can often run wild at this time of year.
“I don’t think that we shall do business in January,” he said, relayed by George Pitts of talkSPORT. “We cannot say that because when there is a chance to make a selection better, we shall do it but I do not think we shall. That is at this moment.”
Any United fans taking these words at face value will be disappointed, as their team has toiled hugely of late. As noted by Adam Crafton of the Daily Mail, there are fundamental flaws with the Red Devils under Van Gaal:
The majority of those who frequent Old Trafford would love to see attacking reinforcements come in. As Pitts noted in his piece, Southampton’s Sadio Mane and Lazio’s Felipe Anderson have been linked with a move to Old Trafford, and each, provided he had the licence to do so, would be capable of rejuvenating United’s attacking play.
Bleacher Report duo Sam Tighe and Dean Jones ran the rule over the chances of those players arriving in Manchester in January:
If United don’t sign anyone in midseason and fail to qualify for next year’s Champions League, they may find it difficult to attract big names.
Indeed, according to Mike McGrath of the Sun, Everton striker Romelu Lukaku—who has also been linked with a switch to Old Trafford by David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror—is ready to snub interest from the Red Devils in favour of a move to Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain or Chelsea next summer.
Bleacher Report’s Nick Akerman thinks the Belgium international, who has netted a whopping 19 goals in all competitions already this season, would be ideal for United:
Don’t see the point of #MUFC spending £35m on Felipe Anderson. Young, proven PL players should be a high priority. Lukaku? Stones? Kane?…— Nick Akerman (@Nakerman) January 1, 2016
But it seems a January deal is beyond United at this point, with Van Gaal likely to only make minor tweaks to his squad. According to Simon Mullock of the Sunday Mirror, the Red Devils are only willing to sell Marouane Fellaini for a huge £24 million, indicating the Dutchman is keen to keep his group intact despite the player’s wishes to move on.
United will also be able to call upon the likes of Adnan Januzaj and Will Keane again during the second half of the season, as they were recalled from loan moves. James Gheerbrant of BBC Sport thinks the former could definitely make an impression during the run-in:
Think Januzaj could do a job for #MUFC. Adds impetus and spark, which is just what the current team need at their most ploddingly horizontal— James Gheerbrant (@JamesGheerbrant) January 7, 2016
The squad at Van Gaal’s disposal, aside from a few imbalances, is actually pretty strong, which makes United’s predicament all the more damning. At the moment, a player such as Anderson, Mane or even Lukaku would struggle in this setup given the stodgy sideways passing and risk-free football the Dutchman seems keen to promote.
United fans would happily see no new players come in if it meant the handbrake was taken off this team in the coming months, but Van Gaal is as stubborn as they come, meaning a stylistic shift is unlikely.
With angst in the crowd and pressure mounting on the Dutchman, perhaps it’s a case of the United hierarchy choosing not to spend in January rather than being unable to.