Manchester United landscape already being reshaped as Louis van Gaal takes 'difficult decisions'

Players' futures at stake on the US tour

Los Angeles

Manchester United’s chief executive, Ed Woodward, has acknowledged that the club’s new manager, Louis van Gaal, has “difficult decisions” to make about some of the players whose futures depend on making a favourable first impression during the pre-season tour of the United States.

Van Gaal’s arrival creates a new start for some of the technically gifted, such as Wilfried Zaha, in whom his predecessor David Moyes had no faith. Others, such as Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young, must demonstrate that they possess the versatility and technical ability with the ball at their feet to create space and engineer the fast-moving brand of football the new manager wants.

“We’ve got someone who has confidence in himself about making difficult decisions and, when you boil down what makes a great manager, one of the key characteristics is making difficult decisions,” Woodward said. “We’ve clearly got a manager who can do that.”

Van Gaal – whose attempts to build a new central defence are more likely to bring the arrival of Feyenoord’s Stefan de Vrij than Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels – knows more about his new Manchester United charges than he cares to admit. It was telling that he mentioned Michael Carrick last week in the course of discussing players who possess the “total person principle” which is at the heart of his football philosophy.

Carrick’s season under Moyes was not good but he has the attributes which are an imperative in any Van Gaal midfield technician: an ability to play with both feet and with his head up, to break one or two lines of players with a pass, and knowing what the next pass is before delivering it. The devastation Van Gaal expressed about Carrick’s 10-week absence with an ankle injury reflected his belief in the 32-year-old.

The decision to omit Bebe and Anderson from the squad to travel to the United States confirms that two of Sir Alex Ferguson’s mistakes do not feature on the future landscape. But it is also Van Gaal’s habit to learn everything about the players, their lives and their families, before deciding whether they will be a part of his squad. He is not averse to sending birthday messages to his players’ wives as part of the process of establishing what makes his professionals tick and whether they have the commitment to the sport that he expects. Wayne Rooney will certainly meet the technical requirements Van Gaal is looking for but he will need to demonstrate that commitment. Tom Cleverley will have to prove his worth to Van Gaal

The squad will spend the next three days preparing for United’s first game under the Dutchman, against LA Galaxy in the Pasadena Rose Bowl on Thursday. Matches against AS Roma, Internazionale and Real Madrid will follow in Denver, Washington DC and Detroit next week.

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