Why the World Cup is so important for Manchester United

by Omar Soliman

While the media glare has concentrated on Brazil, there have been plenty of developments back in Manchester, among them the appointment of a new manager, his coaching staff and two new signings but there are a few reasons United fans should pay close attention to the World Cup.

Top of the list is getting used to the man with the top job, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal. If you were looking to compare him to his predecessor, you would do well to find a more contrasting appointment.

Over the past few weeks, you would have seen the Netherlands progress to the last 16 playing an attractive brand of attacking football, the like of which was markedly absent from Old Trafford last season. He has taken risks, like playing a 3-5-2 against Spain, and deservedly tore apart the world champions.

He has demonstrated a pragmatism and a tactical nous throughout, even if he did need a water break to instigate a cunning plan B and spark a United-esque comeback against Mexico. That the Dutch should come back to win in searing heat against a South American side also shows that he knows a thing or two about fitness levels and team rotation.

Van Gaal has also shown that he knows how to use his squad and, in particular, the youthful members have been deployed to telling effect as both Memphis Depay (20) and Leroy Fer (24) have come on to change games. Clearly, he is not afraid of dropping players who are not performing as he showed by substituting Robin van Persie in their late win against Mexico (Wayne Rooney, take note).

Just in case you had been living under a rock and not already noticed, Van Gaal takes no prisoners with the media either which should make his interviews with the chummy Geoff Shreeves more than entertaining. He can handle the pressure.

“Let me tell you, the Dutch media thought we would never survive the first round, so how we ended up becoming up favourites I’ll never know,” Van Gaal said after Holland’s fine performances.

In terms of players, whether Robin van Persie enjoyed playing under David Moyes or not, he has looked revitalised at this World Cup which bodes well for next season. He has scored three times and with Van Gaal in charge, he will be the favoured focal point of attack, even if Rooney has been given a bumper contract.

This all leads to a catch 22 scenario with the Netherlands. Should they progress, then Van Gaal will have less time with his squad to prepare for the new season but he would come back with the World Cup trophy in tow few, so few could question his credentials for the job.

The scenario also means that the manager would have less time to work on transfers yet executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, may have proven his worth after last summer’s shambolic business. England’s expected early exit from the competition has meant that the signing of Luke Shaw was completed in good time while midfield has been bolstered by the arrival of Ander Herrera.

Let’s not forget about certain players returning to the club after a disappointing campaign, namely Marouane Fellaini. After failing to perform to the standards set, he has at least scored this summer. Scoring the equaliser against Algeria in a crucial World Cup victory could give him the boost of confidence he needs. Javier Hernandez failed to make much of an impression for Mexico yet the much loved striker may already be heading for the exit door, the same could also be said for Shinji Kagawa and Nani.

While some have something to prove upon their return to the squad, the surprise of Spain’s early exit means that David de Gea earned a much needed break before the tour. Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling should be on a beach somewhere mindful that there are places in hell worse than what torture they should expect if they arrive for pre-season training out of shape.

Then there is Adnan. Few could envisage that a year ago you could say that he is now a proven squad member and has played at a World Cup. Then again, he was yet to pick a national team and yet to make his first-team debut. For a 19-year-old, the experience of playing in a World Cup should see him become a more rounded player.

The World Cup also acts as a shop window for talent and any prospective transfer targets remaining in the competition will see their value rise the further they go and the better they perform. One such target may be the French midfielder Paul Pogba, who is starting to look like the player many feared he would become, the exact sort of player United needs right now. Strong, confident and with an eye for a pass, Pogba would slot into any midfield in Europe right now yet should United want to lure him back, they would be looking at a sizeable fee to secure his signature.

With only a few days remaining of this World Cup, there is still much to be excited about. The new manager could become a World Champion. For certain squad members, an early exit from the competition will mean for a much needed rest ahead of a testing campaign. Others may already be heading for the exit but one thing is certain, with Van Gaal in charge next season, it should at least be interesting.

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