May 9, 2021

Lewandowski, Neymar, Mane, Mahrez and Milner among 10 targets Van Gaal missed out on at Man Utd

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The former Red Devils boss says he asked for a number of global superstars to be signed, but none arrived at Old Trafford

Louis van Gaal says Robert Lewandowski, Neymar, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and James Milner were among the top talents he tried to take to Manchester United during his spell at Old Trafford.

The Dutch tactician was handed the Red Devils reins in the summer of 2014, with Premier League giants turning to a proven performer on the back of their failed experiment with David Moyes.

Van Gaal arrived in England with big ambition and wanted that to be mirrored by the club in their recruitment business, but he ended up being frustrated down almost every avenue explored.

What has been said?

Discussing those he targeted with FourFourTwo, Van Gaal reeled off a star-studded list of 10 names: “I wanted Robert Lewandowski, but when this proved difficult I tried to get Gonzalo Higuain instead.

“Before I had arrived, I also spoke with the board about Neymar. If you are at United, you have to think big. He was also interesting for the club in terms of selling shirts, and I wanted to have quick wingers. For that reason, I also tried to get Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez.

“Thomas Muller was on my wish list, too, and in central midfield I wanted N’Golo Kante. I even tried to sign James Milner, who was already quite old but very multi-functional and possessed leadership skills.

“For the defence, I wanted Sergio Ramos and Mats Hummels, because ours wasn’t the strongest in building from the back.

“Those were my top targets, but we couldn’t get any of them. I don’t know why, because as the manager I wasn’t involved in any negotiations. After I left, players like Mahrez and Kante ended up at Manchester City and Chelsea, while United couldn’t get them. I found that very odd.”

Who did Van Gaal sign?

The biggest deal completed by Van Gaal saw United lure Angel di Maria away from Real Madrid in what was considered quite a coup, but the Argentine forward flopped and lasted just one season in England.

Luke Shaw, who is shining in the present, was also snapped up in Van Gaal’s first summer, along with Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, while former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes arrived in January 2015.

Van Gaal’s second season with United, which delivered FA Cup glory and a premature departure, saw him acquire Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Sergio Romero.

Little value was found there, with Anthony Martial the only addition that summer that remains at Old Trafford – and questions have been asked of his contribution to the cause.

Further reading

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