It hasn’t taken long for Louis van Gaal to assert himself at the club. And if there was ever any doubt that Louis van Gaal was in charge of Manchester United, all such illusions have disappeared now. For several months, there were constant rumors of the club being linked with three primary targets – Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho, Bayern Munich’s Toni Kroos and Southampton’s promising left back Luke Shaw – who were identified by former boss David Moyes as the solutions to United’s problems in these key areas.
All the talk about Kroos seems to have taken a backseat, thanks to the fact that Van Gaal doesn’t seem covinced with Kroos’s suitability at Old Trafford. While Jupp Heynckes deployed Kroos as a No.10, Pep Guardiola used the german midfielder as a box-to-box midfielder, or often at the base of the midfield three. Van Gaal, however, probably doesn’t consider Kroos mobile enough to play in his midfield three, and seems to have all but ruled out a move for Toni Kroos.
But there are strong indications that young Dutch midfielder Jordy Clasie could well be on his way to Old Trafford as the man who could rejuvenate an ageing midfield. Moreover, with Arda Turan’s agent confirming that an English club has tabled an offer for the La Liga title winner, and Manchester United have been touted as the most likely candidate. So, the question is, how will Jordy Clasie and Arda Turan fit in at Manchester United? How do they fit into Louis van Gaal’s system?
Clasie has earned praise from one and all in the Dutch footballing sphere, and it is believed that this young midfield maestro could well be ‘the next big thing’ to emerge from Holland. Playing in the heart of the midfield is so often about intelligent movement and passing, and that is where Clasie scores big. While he likes to make himself available in advanced positions, his distribution from midfield is top draw.
Diminutive, he may be, but there is little doubt that Clasie has enough bite and assiduity about his overall game to walk into one of the three slots in midfield that Van Gaal seems to favour in his teams. Clasie likes to deliver pinpoint balls into the forward players, and his panoramic vision and passing range was in display in Netherlands’s latest friendly against Ecuador. Seeing a pocket of space in the opposition’s area, Clasie clipped a delightfully weighted pass to Robin van Persie, who controlled the ball with his chest and slotted the shot past the keeper in typical van Persie style – graceful as ever. And how badly have United missed a player who can make a defence cutting pass like this!
Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley have been reluctant to find the probing forward passes, instead relying on Wayne Rooney or Juan Mata to drop into midfield and weave their magic. But, while it would be ludicrous to suggest that United should sign Clasie based on one pass, let alone one good game or one tournament, there is little doubt that Clasie has the all-round game to succeed at Old Trafford. Clasie fits the ball in every regard where the likes of Fellaini and Cleverley have failed. He is a dogged midfield player who is a ball winner, an excellent passer and has a quick turn of pace, an attribute that could infuse that much needed cutting edge to United’s play, which was uncharacteristically labored last season.
Whether van Gaal deploys him in a midfield three with two of Fellaini, Cleverley and Carrick or whether Clasie and Juan Mata can indeed coexist in the same team remains to be seen. Size certainly does not matter when it comes to carving your niche in the game, but having Juan Mata and Clasie in the same team could be a gamble. From a technical sense, it could well work wonders – the work rate of Clasie and vision of Clasie complemented by the subtle genius and technical ability of the Spaniard. Whether Clasie’s positional intelligence overlook his diminutive stature and lack of physical strength is a question only Van Gaal can answer. But Clasie, undoubtedly, if United get him, has all the makings of a superstar in the red of United.
Arda Turan is another who could fit the bill as far as United are concerned. His agent has confirmed that there has been an offer from an English club for the Turkish midfielder, with United believed to be at the head of the queue. The former Galatasaray man has starred for Diego Simeone’s side this season on their way to lifting the La Liga trophy and taking Real Madrid to the wire in the Champions League final – when injury cost Turan a place in the show piece finale.
While Turan’s best position in Van Gaal’s preferred 4-3-3 system may well be a subject of discussion, the Atletico winger is certainly a step up from the one-dimensional Antonio Valencia, the below par Ashley Young or the erratic Nani. From a player who would look to show a turn of pace and whip a cross in, Turan has groomed his game to become a player who likes to get his head up and find his teammate. Turan is a competent passer, has the ability to hold on to the ball and dribble at defenders. His movement in Diego Simeone’s system allows the forward players to interchange their positions, making Atletico a dangerous attacking outfit.
And Turan could well complement the style of Juan Mata and Rooney, if Louis van Gaal can somehow find a way to fit these players in his system. United’s attacking play last season was rather one-dimensional and Turan’s potential link up play with Mata and Rooney could make United a force to reckon with. And Turan is incredibly versatile as a wide man. He can either wide right or wide left in van Gaal’s 4-3-3, but wouldn’t look out of place in Manchester United’s traditional 4-4-2. He played as a right or left winger for Atletico, combining his attacking instincts with defensive diligence with great effect. Something he would be expected to replicate at Old Trafford.
While everything is still pure speculation, Turan could well be the perfect fit at Manchester United. An attacking wide player who can do more than just whip crosses in, backed up by an unquestionable work ethic and defensive commitment. Whether van Gaal will pursue the Turkish winger’s services remains to be seen, but Arda Turan does seem like someone United need to reinforce the wings.