Clue on forward-thinking plan

Manchester United’s Morgan Schneiderlin (centre) is congratulated by team-mates Memphis Depay (right) and Phil Jones after scoring against Mexico City-based Club America in their International Champions Cup match in Seattle on Friday.
Manchester United’s Morgan Schneiderlin (centre) is congratulated by team-mates Memphis Depay (right) and Phil Jones after scoring against Mexico City-based Club America in their International Champions Cup match in Seattle on Friday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Canny van Gaal refers to "surprise" element as he seeks to address vexed issue of firepower

SEATTLE • Louis van Gaal insists he has no concerns about Manchester United's lack of depth up front but admits that there could still be "a surprise" before the close of the transfer window.

Having sold Robin van Persie to Fenerbahce and opted against signing Radamel Falcao permanently from Monaco, the English Premier League football club have only Wayne Rooney as a top-class striker with Javier Hernandez, who was deemed surplus to requirements last season, and the inexperienced James Wilson as back-up.

Memphis Depay, the Netherlands winger signed from PSV Eindhoven for £25 million (S$53.3 million) last month, can also operate as a forward and was deployed in the hole behind Rooney for the first half of United's 1-0 win over Club America, of Mexico, in a friendly on Friday.

The prospect of an injury to Rooney would potentially leave United in a difficult position next season but, despite insisting he was unconcerned about his attacking options, van Gaal appeared to suggest that there could yet be another arrival in the forward department over the coming weeks.

United have Pedro, the Barcelona forward, in their sights, although they face competition from Chelsea for the Spaniard.

Van Gaal, asked if he was worried about a lack of depth up front, said: "No, because still we have Rooney, he can play in the striker's position.

"All the media had written he had to play there so I listened and now you put this question (to me), so I don't know what you want.

"Also we have Chicharito (Hernandez) and maybe Wilson and maybe there comes a surprise.

"It's a process. I'm not worried about that position."

United kicked off their US tour with a slender victory over Club America in Seattle, courtesy of a fifth-minute header from Morgan Schneidelin on the France midfielder's debut just six days after joining from Southampton for £24 million.

Yet, van Gaal made no attempt to conceal his dismay with the state of the pitch at CenturyLink Field, which did not reflect well on the organisers of the Guinness International Champions Cup in which United are competing.

Van Gaal expressed a "big concern" about the quality of the surface after complaining that it had put his players at greater risk of injury.

Real turf had been laid over the customary artificial surface used by the Seattle Seahawks, the American football team, and the Seattle Sounders Major League Soccer team, who share the stadium, but it was not long before it was cutting up.

The stadium had also played host to a concert by One Direction, the British pop group, on Wednesday evening, with van Gaal bemoaning the impact on the pitch of staging multi-purpose events and expressing relief that he does not have to contend with such issues at Old Trafford.

Meanwhile, Fabian Delph, the England midfielder, completed his £8 million transfer to Manchester City on Friday afternoon, just five days after pulling out of a potential move to the Etihad Stadium and pledging his future to Aston Villa.

The 25-year-old arrived in Manchester for a medical check after he had told City officials about his change of heart.

Personal terms between club and player had been agreed last week, and the deposed Premier League champions had already chosen to meet the release clause inserted in the four-year contract that the midfielder signed with Villa in January when Delph did a U-turn.

City then began considering alternative options. But, in a statement issued on Friday, Delph maintained that his initial decision to stay at Villa was an emotional one and quickly became cause for regret.

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 19, 2015, with the headline 'CLUE ON FORWARD-THINKING PLAN'. Print Edition | Subscribe