Mats Hummels surely now main focus to strengthen defence

Mats Hummels
Mat Hummels has been linked with a move to Manchester United all summer

Manchester United saw one of their summer transfer targets, Thomas Vermaelen, leave to join Barcelona in a £15million deal from Arsenal. Vermaelen had fallen out of favour at The Emirates, with Arsene Wenger preferring Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny as his centre back pairing. Barcelona are for the first time without their captain, Carles Puyol, who was forced to retire through injury ending a gloriously successful career. The Catalan club have added defender Jeremy Mathieu to their ranks, but obviously feel the need to replace the gaping hole left by their former number 5.

It was clear that Arsenal didn’t want to lose their club captain – admittedly who is of less importance than Robin van Persie, who departed two summers ago – to a team who will no doubt be challenging for Champions League places this season and when the calling came from a top club who is in Europe’s elite competition, the Belgian’s mind was surely made up.

Now Louis van Gaal faces the dilemma of heading into the Premier League season without Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra and having not added to the squad defensively. Could the experienced Mats Hummels be the man to come in and make the difference?

Mat Hummels link
There has been no official bid (that has been reported) from the club, regarding any potential transfer for the German World Cup winner – but the rumours will not go away. The commanding centre half had a superb World Cup finals and was named in team of the tournament. His rise in the European game has been evident for all to see since his move to Borussia Dortmund from Louis van Gaal old club Bayern Munich. Jurgen Klopp has obviously played a massive part in the success of the German club, who under former hero Matthias Sammer were in heavy debt ten years ago. Klopp turned the fortunes around and made unknowns into superstars, playing an attractive brand of football and going toe to toe with some of Europe’s finest.

Hummels was part of the side that reached the 2013 European Cup final, only narrowly losing to Bayern Munich 2-1 following a late Arjen Robben strike. Despite his appearance and the trophies he has picked up, Hummels is only 25 years old and would be an exceptional signing for Manchester United. However, Dortmund have lost a second player to Bayern Munich over two season with Robert Lewandowski following the departure of World Cup winning hero Mario Gotze last summer and surely, the club and Klopp will do everything they can to keep hold of Hummels.

Another key point is that Manchester United are without Champions League football, the first time since the 1995/96 season – and Hummels could well want to stay playing for a team in the tournament. There is no doubt the lure of United, if interested, will be tempting and to play centre stage in a team that is now without Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand – a centre half duo that in 2008 were considered in some quarters as the best centre back pairing since Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta some eighteen years previous.

He would be coming into a defensive lineup consisting of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans – who no doubt have quality, but not one – as yet – have demonstrated the leadership qualities of a Vidic or a Ferdinand in their time at the club. Evans has been touted as a potential captain of Manchester United, and this could well be the making of the player. Gerard Pique was forced to leave the club in 2008 as he was never likely to dislodge the Serbian or Ferdinand from their centre back pairing but went onto be part of Barcelona’s double Champions league triumphs – both over United. Sometimes you need to be given a chance to demonstrate your quality, and all three defenders now have a glorious opportunity to demonstrate their class.

For me though, United need to strengthen at the back. To lose three players of that class, quality and experience is a big blow. Transfers are branded around all day long with newspapers churning them out like there is no tomorrow – however, Hummels does fit the bill as to what is needed at the club. He will surely not come cheap, but following Edward Woodward’s comments that United are ‘financially very strong’ – surely money spent on a player of the class of Hummels will be a shrewd investment?

Defence in new look Manchester United

Louis van Gaal is a no nonsense kid of guy. We know that. He will say what he think and not care about what other think about him. But everything he does, in his eyes, will be for the benefit of the club he is managing. This also includes formations and style of play. I do not understand why some fans assume that Louis van Gaal will always continue to play with three at the back. In some circumstances – you will see him play a 3-4-1-2 and in some he will play a 4-3-3, switching to 3-4-3 when attacking and when chasing a game he may even go to a 4-2-4. All good managers are able to adapt to the opposition and also to stamp your own authority on a match.

Holland were struggling against Mexico in the World Cup having fallen a goal behind, immediately Louis van Gaal made a change and switched the formation – and from then on, Holland were the dominate team – winning the match 2-1 with two lates goals. Late goals? Match changing substitutions? The Dutchamn will fit in very nicely at Old Trafford. Brian Clough once said

“Players lose you games, not tactics. There’s so much crap talked about tactics by people who barely know how to win at dominoes”

Although Clough could well have a point regarding amateur assessment of the beautiful game – the top coaches of today’s football, will disagree immensely.

So, United could opt to play 3-4-1-2 or 4-3-3 against Swansea City next Saturday:

3-4-1-24-3-3

In the final game of the US tour, Louis van Gaal deployed a 3-4-1-2 with Jones, Evans and Smalling making up the three man defence with Valencia and Young being used as wing backs. Much has been made about the fitness, or lack, of Luke Shaw – Manchester United’s new signing from Southampton. Rafael, who was sent home with a groin injury, could play as a full back in a 4-3-3 or as a right wing back in a 3-4-1-2, but if truth be told – the Brazilian has struggled since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. A more likely candidate is Antonio Valencia who has the energy and fitness to burst up and down that right flank.

United could well be without Robin van Persie, who was given an extended holiday following his exploits at the World Cup in Brazil. This will surely mean that Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck will form an attacking trio, if indeed Louis van Gaal opts for a 3-4-1-2. This could also give James Wilson a chance from the bench following his four goals in the senior cup final.

In preseason that would make a ludicrous Champions League run read, it should be clear – the results mean nothing. United breezed past Barcelona in the 2003 summer tour before humbling Juventus 4-1 with a super ball from Juan Sebastian Veron to Ruud vanNistelrooy. Its an important time for Louis van Gaal to assess his team, instil his philosophy and get players to match fitness – but the real results that matter will start on Saturday 16th August against Swansea City.

Reaction to Thomas Vermaelen signing for Barcelona and not United
It happened very quickly. The links were there on Thursday that Manchester United were in pole position to sign the unhappy Arsenal defender. But 48 hours later, Vermaelen had signed for the Catalan giants. We asked you over Twitter whether you were disappointed that he had gone to Barcelona and whether the club needed to invest in defensive cover this season and here is what you said:

The general consensus is that many fans aren’t too disappointed with Vermaelen opting for Barcelona believing he is injury prone. On the other hand, nearly all responses stated that United need to strengthen, with many believing that either one of Evans, Jones or Smalling are not quite up to the task.

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One Response to “Mats Hummels surely now main focus to strengthen defence”

  1. Tom Parkinson says:

    All of the Hummels links have today been completely rubbished by the fact that he has been made BVB club captain for next season. Zero chance of signing him now even if they offered 40m they wouldn’t take it now. Need to move on to someone else asap.

    Letting Rio go without a replacement lined up isn’t looking too smart right now to be honest, think we’ll be seeing the likes of Carrick and Fletcher having to do stints at the back at some point in the season. Again.

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