Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has been dealt a fresh blow after the opening day defeat to Swansea City after Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted Ángel Di María will remain at the Bernabéu. Van Gaal watched his charges slump to a humiliating first ever home league defeat to the Welsh side on Saturday and admitted after the game that he is still a few players short of making United the force they used to be. However, his long-time pursuit of Argentina international Di María looks like ending with disappointment after Ancelotti warned him off the player. The Italian also said Sami Khedira will not be joining Arsenal.
Di María and Khedira had been expected to exit Real after the Spanish giants side signed Toni Kroos from Bayern Munich and Rodríguez from Monaco. Speculation the players would leave was further fueled when Ancelotti left them out of the UEFA Super Cup clash with Sevilla earlier this month. Yet Ancelotti has assured both players they have a future at Real as he looks to build on last season’s Champions League and Copa Del Rey successes.
“They are Real Madrid players,” he said. “They didn’t play in the Super Cup because they joined the group on August 5th.” Although Ancelotti is keen to keep Khedira in the Spanish capital, the German’s contract expires in a year’s time and so Real risk seeing the player leave via a free transfer next summer.
While Arsenal look like being able to live without Khedira’s services, United boss van Gaal knows he must sign at least one marquee player before the transfer window closes in a fortnight if he is to be taken seriously this season. United’s weak performance against an average Swansea side will have given the former Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Netherlands coach cause for concern. Despite his statement in yesterday’s post-match press conference that the league title is not decided until May, he will know that his side cannot afford a slow start to the season if they are to have any chance of claiming a top four spot at the end of the season.
Although United have been keen on Di María for some time, van Gaal said yesterday that defense was his main priority. With Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Tyler Blackett and Jonny Evans all struggling to raise their game for the new manager, a world-class talent cannot arrive at United fast enough. However, with Mats Hummels looking like he will stay at Borussia Dortmund, United may be forced to look elsewhere to land a player who would fit easily into the United back line. Having started the game against Swansea with three at the back, van Gaal switched to a traditional back four after the break. He had said before the game that it could take up to three months for United fans to see any real progress – the same period of time he claimed was necessary at his previous clubs.
Still fresh from the Swansea defeat, van Gaal is readying himself for a series of blows in a league he has never previously experienced and the one Ancelotti has just dealt him is probably just the latest in what will undoubtedly be a turbulent season for United and their new manager.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd