By J Hutcherson - WASHINGTON, DC (July 15, 2014) US Soccer Players – It's worth pointing out that Manchester United manager Luis van Gaal is in his rookie season with the Premier League. Yes, his Netherlands team did quite well at the World Cup. Even if some people tried to dismiss their efforts as too reliant on the counterattack, van Gaal put together a strong squad.
Short of a raid on Bayern Munich to bring Arjen Robben to Manchester United, van Gaal has less to work with at club level. Sure, he's got Robin van Persie, but nobody including van Gaal picks van Persie over Arjen Robben. van Gaal faces another issue with his United squad. He's not the only Dutch manager in the Premier League. Southampton's Ronald Koeman has a stronger connection to arguably the club with the most talented players.
Feyenoord appears to be shopping any member of their squad who can peak international interest, and there's a direct link to Koeman who left the Feyenoord job for Southampton. Obviously, Southampton lacks the money to spend on Feyenoord's top potential transfer, but Koeman already signed Graziano Pelle. Sure, he's a rarity as an Italian playing in the Eredivisie, but the Eredivisie to Premier League pipeline isn't only directed toward what van Gaal might need at Manchester United.
Higher up the transfer market, Newcastle United signed Feyenoord defender Daryl Janmaat, a member of van Gaal's World Cup squad. The big target is another Feyenoord defender, center back Stefan de Vrij. If Feyenoord sells yet another player, Manchester United isn't the only club interested in de Vrij. If the transfer window closes without van Gaal signing at least one of the members of his Netherlands team, it would be an interesting development for Manchester United.
With the Eredivisie seen as a developmental and selling league, Feyenoord and potentially Ajax offloading some of their best players isn't exactly a surprise. What's different between this transfer window and the transfer window following the 2010 World Cup is how many members of van Gaal's squad not only played in the Eredivisie when he announced his roster, but were crucial to his plans. Nine Eredivisie-based players in 2010 to 10 in 2014, but the quality of the domestic-based 2014 players is noticeably higher. We've already seen that with the transfers and rumors of more to come involving those players.
Yes, van Gaal already has one of the top Dutch players in the squad, but inheriting players and adding them are different things. van Gaal can't pull the normal new coach move in English soccer. That's when the new boss decides the team isn't really his until he's had enough transfer windows to move old players out and new players in. After what happened with United last season, van Gaal took the job knowing he won't have that luxury.
What van Gaal does have is cash to spend, and that's already happening. £29 million pounds to Bilbao for midfielder Ander Herrera and £27 million pounds to Southampton for left back Luke Shaw. The Shaw transfer is interesting. Daley Blind might also be set to leave the Eredivisie, and the Ajax defender/midfielder can play in the back or defensive midfield at a level that should interest United.
It certainly interests van Gaal, who used him as a tactical solution at the World Cup. When van Gaal needed Blind in defensive midfield, he performed. The same thing happened when Blind played left back. Somewhat unfortunately for van Gaal, Blind's tactical importance wasn't lost on everybody else.
There's a good argument that it's Blind that becomes the biggest potential move out of the Eredivisie. Blind needs a strong team to play at his best. He's a component to make a good team that much better, not the solution in his own right. That's no knock against Blind. At least for now, he's part of an Ajax team that can push the credibility of an entire league up the table by a strong Champions League performance in 2014-15.
Should Blind move, it almost has to be to United. van Gaal helped build this generation of Dutch players into something special, and he should be the one benefitting at club level. That doesn't mean trying to create a club version of the Netherlands national team. However, it does mean taking his own components to improve his club squad when those players are available.
It's an interesting situation, especially with Manchester United out of Europe this season. van Gaal's own legacy as well as the club's certainly helps his pitch to potential signings, but it still requires spending an entire season with a domestic focus. That's tough, especially for players coming off of a World Cup summer.
The closest thing to World Cup soccer is Champions League soccer. We know that's not on Manchester United's schedule in 2014-15. Getting there for 2015-16 is only as straightforward as the quality of the squad van Gaal can put together.
J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.
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