Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal offloads fringe players as he looks to the long term

Late returns for Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels and Juventus’s Artur Vidal have been ruled out

There are omens for those at Manchester United who go looking for them. The last time the club failed to win any of their opening three Premier League games was 2007-08, a season when they went on to win the Premier League and Champions League. Any talk of the course of the title race being in any way dictated by events in August – even United’s chronic early form – are ridiculous.

Title talk is already a fantasy, though. Early evidence suggests that this is at least a two-year overhaul in which United might have to settle for a second season out of Europe’s elite competition. Their manager, Louis van Gaal, said after the goalless draw at Burnley on Saturday that he can be judged on his achievement only at the end of the season, not the next weeks and months, as he had initially indicated.

United may make a final attempt to do business tomorrow. But late returns for Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels and Juventus’s Artur Vidal have been ruled out and United appear ready to wait until January when they would move for the AS Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman, who is currently injured. The £13.8m signature of Ajax’s Daley Blind is expected to be confirmed imminently.

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Suggestions that United are moving to bring in Rene Meulensteen, Van Gaal’s compatriot and former assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson, are wide of the mark. The club’s deadline day will also be dominated by efforts to shed players after Shinji Kagawa’s £8m sale to Borussia Dortmund today. United have come closer to selling Javier Hernandez, with Juventus and Valencia in contention, but the Aston Villa manager, Paul Lambert, is understood to be concerned by the wage Tom Cleverley would command if he were to join the club. Villa hope to resolve that issue as they are keen on the player and have approached him.

Danny Welbeck may leave for Tottenham Hotspur on loan, though he is less likely to leave than Cleverley or Hernandez. United are likely to be unwilling to let both him and Hernandez go.


United’s record new signing Angel Di Maria’s physicality at Turf Moor was the most surprising aspect of a contribution in which he was their best player. “He didn’t hide or shirk his responsibilities. He coped physically,” observed his team-mate Darren Fletcher. “Once he learns the language he will be ok. But he’s a tough Argentinian lad; he has shown that already.”

Yet there was pitifully little around him to excite United fans. Robin van Persie’s lack of fitness can no longer be ascribed to his duties at the World Cup because the third place play-off against Brazil was 51 days ago.

The manager seemed a little baffled by being able to use him for 73 minutes. “When you play a player for 60 minutes in his first game and 70 minutes in his second game you build up as a coach,” he said. “That’s also disappointing but it’s the case that you have to build up players in the season. We have to do that or he is never fit.”

It was an encouraging afternoon for Burnley, who possessed a resolute defence, a forceful attacking threat in Scott Arfield and David Jones – they are poised to also sign striker George Boyd from Hull for £3m tomorrow –and deserved their point.

Video: 'I have given everybody a fair chance' - Louis Van Gaal

Jones, sold by United seven years ago, foretold what they will face every week. “If you look at the previous games they have been edgy and we wanted to take advantage of that,” he said. “No player, at the best of times, wants another player in their face, working hard to stop them playing. It showed early on that they were under pressure.”

Fletcher insisted Van Gaal’s philosophy of playing less intuitively and more “with the brain” was not new. “You get the heart and the desire and sometimes you need to think about [the brain] more,” he said. “But we have always had that. Sir Alex Ferguson used to tell us to use our brain and would use [Paul] Scholesy as an example. So it’s not something we are averse to.”

It may take an entirely reconstructed team to deliver United from this pit, though.