Louis van Gaal, the Manchester United manager, has provided a brutal assessment of his decision to let Danny Welbeck leave Old Trafford, declaring that the player simply did not deliver to the same level as Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie – who provide the “standard” the club expects.
The wisdom of Van Gaal’s decision to release Welbeck has been questioned by The Independent columnist Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, among others. But the 23-year-old scored 29 goals in 142 games for United – roughly one in four games – and Van Gaal said that United’s emerging youngsters offered greater potential than that, as does Radamel Falcao, whose signing he described as an unmissable opportunity.
“Danny Welbeck was here when he was nine,” Van Gaal said. “He played [for] three seasons at Manchester United after [returning from loan at] Sunderland but he doesn’t have the record of Van Persie or Rooney and that is the standard. That is why we let him go, because Falcao [was available] but also the youngsters.”
Van Gaal implied that emerging players like James Wilson and Jesse Lingard had also adapted to his new philosophy in a way that Welbeck had simply not. They were youngsters “who can fit in,” he said. “I repeat, that is the policy and that is why I am here to do that, that transformation in that process.”
Van Gaal said he had “spoken” with Welbeck and Javier Hernandez – the implication being that he had told them they were surplus to requirements – before buying Falcao became a realistic prospect, 36 hours ahead of the transfer window closing. “When you can hire or buy a player like Falcao… I don’t have doubts because he is for me one of the best strikers in the world and when you see his record it is unbelievable,” Van Gaal said.
Video: 'Welbeck great signing' - Wenger
Van Gaal’s proclamations about United’s young players was a recurrent theme as the club introduced Falcao and £15m acquisition Daley Blind. Enunciated in his still eccentric English, when he says “youth” it sounds like “juice” or “Jews”. But he admitted a rapid return to the top three rested with an entirely restructured side.
Van Gaal asked for time, declaring the journey ahead would be arduous. “We let go 14 players, we bought six, so 20 players [have a new] relationship with others in the dressing room,” he said. “There is a new hierarchy in the dressing room. We are in a process and so is [Falcao] also and Daley also. It is not easy. That is why I have asked for time because I knew in advance that this shall happen.” The level of player churn is actually greater than the Dutchman stated: United have let 19 players go since the end of last season.
Van Gaal has had no discussions with the United chief executive, Ed Woodward, about the club’s expected finishing position this season. The third-place finish discussed with investment analysts on Wednesday was tabled for financial planning purposes, as it was last season.
Falcao’s goalscoring record is excellent but he has played only 217 minutes of football since returning last month from a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee sustained in mid-January. He has not completed any of the six games he has played for Monaco since that comeback, averaging only 36 minutes on the field. “I scored [two] goals [in those games]. That is important to strikers and I’m confident with my physical form. I am comfortable with my knee,” he insisted.
The other question mark surrounds his nomadic status. This is his fifth club and fifth country in five years since he left River Plate, in Argentina. He insisted – as he would – he is capable of putting down roots in Manchester. He was less willing to discuss the other clubs to whom he might have moved, including Real Madrid and Manchester City, who recoiled from the £18m package they were being asked to pay. “Everybody hears about that club,” he said. “I’d rather focus on my current situation and the opportunity to enjoy myself and my football.”
Van Gaal – who indicated that all the new players would be available to play against Queen’s Park Rangers on Sunday – offered no clue as to how he would fit all his acquisitions together in a starting line-up, even suggesting that the release of a high number of players created an abundance of space. “We let go 14 players so how you fit these players in is not so difficult I think.”
Though extolling the United philosophy of “youth education”, he warned that young players had to take any opportunities he gave them. “Because of this policy we give youth players a chance,” he said. “But the question is [can] they take the chance? It’s of course more risky but I think it’s the only way to do it.”Reuse content