Football News

Van Gaal names the 10 targets he missed out on at Man Utd, including Lewandowski, Neymar, Ramos and Mane

By Ben Green

Published: 16:25, 29 April 2021 | Updated: 13:04, 19 September 2022

Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has listed 10 transfer targets the club missed out on during his stint at Old Trafford.

Van Gaal was drafted in to succeed David Moyes after a tumultuous first season post-Sir Alex Ferguson, which culminated in the now West Ham manager’s acrimonious dismissal just nine months after he was cherrypicked by his illustrious predecessor.

The Dutch coach harboured ambitions of mimicking those halcyon days of Ferguson’s tenure, and wanted the makers and shakers to share his ambition, but he felt the board fell short of expectations on that front, and as a result, he missed out on crucial targets.

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Among those who slipped from his grasp according to the man himself were Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, the world’s most expensive player in football history Neymar, Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, and a host of other high-profile names.

Speaking to FourFourTwo about the missed targets, Van Gaal said: “I wanted Lewandowski, but when this proved difficult I tried to get Gonzalo Higuain instead.

“Before I had arrived, I also spoke with the board about Neymar. If you are at United, you have to think big. He was also interesting for the club in terms of selling shirts, and I wanted to have quick wingers. For that reason, I also tried to get Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez.

“Thomas Muller was on my wish list, too, and in central midfield I wanted N’Golo Kante. I even tried to sign James Milner, who was already quite old but very multi-functional and possessed leadership skills.

“For the defence, I wanted Ramos and Mats Hummels, because ours wasn’t the strongest in building from the back.

“Those were my top targets, but we couldn’t get any of them. I don’t know why, because as the manager I wasn’t involved in any negotiations.

After I left, players like Mahrez and Kante ended up at Manchester City and Chelsea, while United couldn’t get them. I found that very odd.”

So, who did Van Gaal end up with?

During his maiden campaign in the dugout, his recruitment wasn’t so much a who’s who of Ballon d’Or nominees as a blend of promising potential and hopeful punts.

Among those brought in during that 2014/15 season were Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Victor Valdes, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and of course Angel Di Maria, the latter of whom has gone down in Old Trafford infamy as an expensive flop who failed to vindicate his lofty price tag.

It can perhaps be argued that only Herrera and Shaw went on (and still in the case of the latter) to enjoy success in the North West, with the former proving a consistent if sometimes unspectacular tempo-setter and the left-back putting his injury problems to one side and establishing himself as an elite defender.

The second season saw the signings of Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Sergio Romero and Anthony Martial, with only the latter really enjoying a fruitful — and consistent — stint at the club.

Depay left under a cloud but has since reinvigorated his career at Lyon, rising to prominence and now being linked with a move to Barcelona, where compatriot and former Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman occupies the dugout.

So, by and large, not a great return in the recruitment department for Van Gaal and Man Utd during that two-year spell, compared to what the Dutchman claims could have been.