Neymar, Lewandowski, Ramos: The Man United starting XI Louis van Gaal wanted

Wayne Rooney and Louis van Gaal

With Antonio Conte recently revealing that he felt Chelsea’s failure to sign Romelu Lukaku and Virgil van Dijk saw his Blues tenure start to unravel, GIVEMESPORT have been examining the other prime transfer targets Big Six managers missed out on before eventually getting the sack.

And today is the turn of Louis van Gaal, who had some very interesting things to say a few months ago regarding Manchester United’s decision to dismiss him of his services a year ahead of his contact expiring - despite his last game in charge being a win over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final.

Indeed, the Dutchman listed no less than ten top-class players he’d hoped to lure to Old Trafford, only for Ed Woodward and company to fail to make his vision a reality.  

He name-dropped so many major stars that we can’t even fit them all in, but van Gaal has given us more than enough to consider what United’s starting XI would’ve looked like had he got his many transfer wishes.

Sergio Ramos

The Defence

Van Gaal can’t have too many complaints in the full-back department; United signed Luke Shaw under his watch - at that time paying a record fee for a teenager, while Antonio Valencia made the No.2 berth his own under the Dutchman and later served as club captain during Jose Mourinho’s era.

There were no plans to oust David De Gea, either. In fact, United’s devotion to keeping him at Old Trafford resulted in the infamous fax machine fiasco of summer 2015, much to Real Madrid’s annoyance.

Van Gaal, however, did want major changes at the heart of defence to ensure United had the technical quality to build play from the back. Sergio Ramos and Mats Hummels, a duo of World Cup winning centre-halves, are amongst the best in their generation when it comes to that.

But Ramos instead signed a new contract at the Bernabeu in 2015 and Hummels swapped Dortmund for Bayern a year after. Instead, van Gaal often had to make do with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones - hardly the epitome of ball-playing centre-backs.

Ngolo Kante

The Midfield

In the engine room, van Gaal wanted to bring in N’Golo Kante and while he wasn’t clear on whether that was in the summer before or after Leicester’s miraculous title victory with the French enforcer at their core, he’s nonetheless remarked his dismay in Chelsea managing to sign him instead.

Since moving to west London, Kante has won a Premier League title, an FA Cup, a Europa League and a World Cup, and is generally regarded as one of the best play-breaking midfielders in the world. Van Gaal did acquire the services of Ander Herrera though, who enjoyed five solid seasons at Old Trafford.

Just ahead of him, we’ve placed Wayne Rooney and Thomas Muller. Having risen to prominence at Bayern Munich under van Gaal, the former United boss would’ve certainly known how to get the best out of Muller, who last season helped fire the German giants to the Champions League title.

Rooney, meanwhile, completes an incredibly offensive-minded pairing in the No.8 positions. But if there’s any midfielder in the world who could provide just enough energy and protection to make it work, it’s undoubtedly Kante.

Sadio Mane

The Strike Force

If you thought van Gaal’s dream midfield was impressive, the strike-force is something else altogether. The former Barcelona gaffer has revealed he wanted United to think as big as possible, and therefore coveted the signature of a certain Neymar - you know, that little Brazilian lad who keeps trying to prove he’s better than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Van Gaal’s interest in then-Southampton star Sadio Mane back in 2015 was initially met with raised eyebrows after a productive yet not exactly spell-binding first season at St. Mary’s. But hindsight tells us LVG was spot on with this one - Mane’s been a crucial part of the Liverpool side that have won the Champions League and the Premier League over the last two seasons.

At the spearhead of what is frankly quite an incredible team is Robert Lewandowski, one of the greatest centre-forwards in the world over the last decade. But instead of joining United at the very start of van Gaal’s reign, the Poland striker moved on a free transfer to Bayern Munich instead - where he’s won six Bundesliga titles and a Champions League.

Back at Old Trafford, meanwhile, an ageing strike-force of Rooney and Robin van Persie was supplemented with an ill-fated loan move for Radamel Falcao and later a big-money swoop for an incredibly young Anthony Martial.

Man United XI under LVG

Would things have panned out differently for LVG?

Ultimately, this starting XI needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Van Gaal’s dream team is exactly that - a side mixing together some of the top talents in world football that even United would struggle to afford bringing together in the space of just four transfer windows.

Nonetheless, since van Gaal was given his marching orders in summer 2016, that starting XI has gone on to win five Europa League titles, 18 domestic titles, five Champions League titles and a World Cup.

So if Woodward were able to make just the lion’s share of it a reality at Old Trafford, United would certainly have been far more competitive in the Premier League title race under van Gaal and potentially pushed for European honours as well.

Perhaps what’s most impressive about this XI, considering it was envisaged over four years ago now, is how all of the players involved with the exception of Valencia are still very much at the top of European football. That hints to something of a dynasty at Old Trafford, albeit one created at staggering cost.

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