In the Manchester Evening News today, Louis van Gaal has been quoted as saying the friendly versus Valencia at Old Trafford tonight is the last chance any players have to prove themselves worthy of being kept by the new manager.
Going into tonight’s game there are a number of players with question marks above their heads. The likes of; Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Tom Cleverley, Anderson, Nani and Javier Hernandez all have a point to prove to the Dutchman. Additions are expected, and soon we all hope, so those in the firing line will be hopeful of cementing a place in the 25 man squad this season.
The names above are those we know are hanging on by their finger nails, Shinji Kagawa can be added to the list also, and none (bar Ashley Young) have done themselves any real favours during the recent tour of America. Cleverley was made captain for the Roma game, but that did little to spur him on to any greater heights. Nani is a lost cause and has been for years now, the same goes for Anderson. Hernandez is a sorry story of something wonderful going wrong, and Kagawa has done little to impress since arriving from Dortmund.
With talks of the likes of Angel di Maria arriving from Real Madrid, you would think that at least one of the attacking players or wingers is on their way. Arturo Vidal is refusing to go away, and reports contradicting each other are released by the second, the growing speculation he is destined for Old Trafford surely means that a central midfielder or two is off (Marouane Fellaini heavily linked with a loan move away in the last couple of days and maybe one more). Daley Blind is another touted for Manchester, a versatile player that could mean any one of those mentioned could be off.
The game itself is a marker. 12 months ago David Moyes, the new manager, was readying himself for his first game at Old Trafford, against Spanish side Seville, in Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial. It isn’t a situation we thought we would experience again for at least a little while, but the strange sense of deja vu surrounding this summer really needs to be quelled soon. There are striking similarities between the 2 summers, and barring the hectic 24 hours in June, you could almost say they are exactly the same.
Though it seems like something is going to be done about the flops left behind by Sir Alex Ferguson this year, a no-nonsense manager on a tirade to rid the club of the demons that dwell within. Personally I feel Ashley Young has done his cause the world of good (whether I am happy with this or not is a separate issue) by impressing at wing back. Antonio Valencia should be safe, and Tom Cleverley may not be so perilously placed as we may be lead to believe. That leaves Kagawa, Fellaini, Hernandez, Nani and Anderson. Louis van Gaal apparently worked on a list of players he wants rid of this summer, and one could imagine those names (though not necessarily in that order) we very, very high upon it. Though the Tipex may have been out for certain ones, you get the feeling these five have been outlines in marker. The next 21 days could prove very interesting, failure to do so will keep that ‘we’ve been here before’ feeling ticking along.