Louis van Gaal’s attempts to rebuild Manchester United’s squad are likely to be accelerated this week, with Atlético Madrid ready to launch a bid to sign Javier Hernández and Shinji Kagawa.
United finished off their pre-season tour of the United States with a match against Liverpool at the Sun Life Stadium and Van Gaal has indicated key decisions on who will remain at Old Trafford are to be made in the next seven days.
While doubts remain over Marouane Fellaini, Nani and Anderson, all of whom had hugely difficult seasons playing for David Moyes last time round, the resolution of Hernández’s and Kagawa’s futures look more clear-cut.
Both players have been on the fringes in the past two weeks and Atlético, the La Liga winners and Champions League runners-up, are looking to rebuild their squad after losing Diego Costa and Filipe Luís to Chelsea. Defender Javier Manquillo is also poised to join Liverpool and the manager, Diego Simeone, wants Kagawa and Hernández in a deal which would total in excess of £25m.
Kagawa knows his opportunities are very limited after being told by Van Gaal that given his new 3-5-2 system, unless the 25 year-old wants to play out wide – a position which does not suit him – he may not have a future at Old Trafford. The Japanese wants to play as a No10 – a role which Van Gaal would prefer to fill with one of Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata or the Belgian teenager Adnan Januzaj.
Kagawa’s former club, Borussia Dortmund, had shown an appetite to bring him back to Germany after he made only 14 Premier League starts last season, but their interest is believed to have cooled.
Hernández is also preparing to be told his future lies elsewhere with Rooney, Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck all believed to be ahead of the Mexico striker when it comes to Van Gaal’s striking options. The 26-year-old started only six times in the Premier League for United last season and Simeone is keen to fill the gaps at Atlético left by the departures of David Villa and Costa, despite the arrival of Mario Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann.
The situation with Fellaini, who struggled so badly after arriving from Everton for £28m, is more complex. He will return to United’s Carrington base after some impressive displays for Belgium at the World Cup and is wanted by Rafael Benítez at Napoli. The Serie A club cannot afford either his wages or a transfer fee and would like a loan, something which does not appeal to United. The midfielder is nervously awaiting Van Gaal’s verdict before deciding on his next move.
“I shall make judgments after this tour,” Van Gaal said. “I let all the players play and I know now more than before the tour. Now also it is a little bit soon to judge but in football you have to judge. You have to give a chance to the player to make a transfer when I see that his prospects to play are not so high. You have to say it in advance because it’s too late after 31 August. I will tell players after the tour but to them not to you [reporters].”
Naturally in Miami, where there is a huge football-loving Hispanic community, there is great focus on Hernández yet Van Gaal, tellingly, was unwilling to be drawn when asked about the striker’s qualities and future at United.
“I think the striker has the biggest chance to score so that it is not the reason why a player plays,” he said. “We are playing like a team and the team scores. I don’t make individual evaluations because we are playing with a team not individual players. When I say something about an individual specifically, always my words shall be translated differently.”
Fellaini, together with Januzaj and Van Persie, were all given added time off following their exploits at the World Cup and remain doubtful for the start of the season. “I have to look at Robin van Persie when he comes back,” Van Gaal added. “But if you have three weeks’ holiday and only four days’ training before the friendly versus Valencia next Tuesday, you are not fit enough. For the first game in the Premier League it’s possible to play, but I don’t think so.”