Louis van Gaal has revealed a lengthy list of leading names he says Manchester United failed to sign during his reign, admitting the club’s owners failed to deliver his key transfer targets.
Van Gaal spent two seasons in charge of the Red Devils and helped the club to FA Cup success in 2016, taking over following the disastrous tenure of David Moyes as Manchester United looked to rebuild following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The experienced Dutch coach spent lavishly during his first summer including breaking the British transfer record to sign Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid, but has now revealed the ten targets he had demanded from the club’s board – each of whom they failed to sign.
Amongst the names mentioned include a succession of stars who have gone on to enjoy great success elsewhere, including Bayern Munich’s Champions League-winning frontline of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, Liverpool forward Sadio Mane and the world’s most expensive player in Neymar.
“I wanted Robert Lewandowski, but when this proved difficult I tried to get Gonzalo Higuain instead,” Van Gaal told FourFourTwo. “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 Mané and Riyad Mahrez. Thomas Muller was on my wish list, too, and in central midfield, I wanted N’Golo Kanté. I even tried to sign James Milner, who was already quite old but very multifunctional and possessed leadership skills.
“For the defence, I wanted Sergio 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 Kanté ended up at Manchester City and Chelsea, while United couldn’t get them. I found that very odd.”
Van Gaal discussed his meetings with the club’s owners and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and admits his surprise at the club’s failings given their status as one of world football’s richest clubs.
The former manager’s comments are unlikely to be welcomed by the Red Devils’ supporters, who are currently in the midst of watching their side endure a protracted chase for Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho – the club seemingly no closer to securing a record-breaking deal for the England international.
“I met with them in Brussels – clubs often organise talks in foreign cities so the media can’t track them down easily,” he added. “The Glazers and Ed Woodward were there – they asked me about everything, including my vision and how I would want to organise things, and said they would meet my needs for new players.
“I inherited an old team that hadn’t been refreshed for some time, and wanted to rejuvenate the squad with players who would bring the same kind of quality. But to get the ones I wanted proved very difficult.
“It surprised me, even though I understand that clubs hold out for the highest fee because they know United are the richest in the world. At the same time, though, if you are the richest, you’d expect to get what you want.
“But it didn’t happen: we only got third-, fourth- or fifth-choice players.”