Van Gaal won't make United champions
Harry Redknapp has declared that Manchester United will not win the title next season, and it's a point that's hard to argue.
New manager Louis van Gaal is good. But he's not that good. No-one is.
But, while the Dutchman issued typically forthright soundbites at his unveiling this week, it's highly likely that even he would doubt his ability to perform such a turnaround.
In the history of the Premier League, no team have ever leapt from seventh place one season to become champions the next.
The priority is simply to return to the top four.
The team that have come closest to a jump from seventh to first are, of course, Liverpool, and there is much that can be learnt from their return to the big time.
Lesson No. 1 is that it is not an immediate recovery.
Under Rafa Benitez, the Merseysiders crashed to seventh just a year after running United to the wire for the title.
In an effort to wipe the slate clean, Liverpool sacked the Spaniard in the summer and hired Roy Hodgson. By the time the leaves fell from the trees that year, they were in the relegation zone.
Kenny Dalglish turned the ship around, scooped up a League Cup, but was then himself dismissed after erratic spending led to a disappointing league performance.
Even Brendan Rodgers, now rightly credited as the visionary behind the resurgence, required a difficult transitional season to lay down foundations.
The idea that van Gaal could repair the damage at United in a single summer and take the club straight to the title is, when you think about it, absolutely ludicrous.
There are issues that need to be resolved at the club.
There are whispers about an academy in a state of decline, of a scouting network that was little more than handwritten notes in a box.
David Moyes hardly covered himself in glory, but his dark hints at challenges across the club should still be noted nonetheless.
And then there is the state of the team.
Van Gaal's decision to leave Anderson out of the US tour party is a reminder as to the folly of some of Sir Alex Ferguson's latter signings.
Anderson is £25 million ($53m) worth of wastrel and the man brought in alongside him for £17m, Luis Nani, hasn't done much better.
David de Gea, fortunately, was one of Ferguson's better acquisitions. He is the only man who can be proud of his efforts last season.
In defence, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all hope to prove themselves as top-class defenders. None has, so far. In midfield, there has been a gaping abyss for years. Up front, self-interest rules supreme.
This is not a terrible squad by any means, but without Ferguson to hold it together, it seriously under-performed last year. Van Gaal has much work to do.
There are external issues as well.
Manchester City have a bottomless pit of resources to create a club for the future, investing heavily within and without in their quest for global domination. They will not be shifted easily.
Chelsea, so transient and chaotic for so long, now have Jose Mourinho and clear leadership. Last season was just his warm-up.
Arsenal and Liverpool are settled and capable of playing excellent, exciting football with a host of new signings itching to show what they can do.
And then there are Everton and Tottenham, both ambitious outfits with designs on the top four.
Van Gaal is an excellent manager, he's proved that at club and international level, winning titles in Holland, Spain and Germany and leading the Dutch national team to third place in the World Cup.
He has the force of personality required to bring a fractious dressing room into line. He has the tactical acumen required for a league that has never been more challenging.
He, more than his predecessor, really knows what he's doing.
But this is not an easy mission and Redknapp is right: It will not be completed in a single year.
THREE MAIN REASONS
No EPL team have ever leapt from seventh to first in one season.
United need better quality, especially in defence and midfield.
STRENGTH OF RIVALS
Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool will pose big threats.
I don’t think van Gaal can bring players in that he really wants this window. Elite players want to play in the Champions League. He shouldn’t worry about winning a thing this year. The target should only be to qualify for the Champions League.
- Former Chelsea star Ray Wilkins
Redknapp: Van Gaal needs fantastic four
Veteran EPL manager Harry Redknapp believes Manchester United still need "four more fantastic players", besides new signings Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera if they are to win the title.
Redknapp (above), who will take charge of newly-promoted Queens Park Rangers in the new season, said: "Van Gaal's got a good track record.
"But he needs to bring four or five players in at least to get them back to where they were under Alex (Ferguson)."
"I wouldn't see them winning (the title) next year unless he suddenly pulls three or four fantastic players out of the hat."
Redknapp pointed to the strength of title rivals like Chelsea and Manchester City.
"I wouldn't see them being as strong as Chelsea or Man City," he added.
"I think Arsenal have made a great signing (in Alexis Sanchez) so they could get a lot closer next year."
Redknapp believes Liverpool will find it harder this season without their talisman Luis Suarez.
- Wire Services.
Red Devils hit the beach
Louis van Gaal took his players for a stroll on Santa Monica beach as he started trying to develop a bond with his new Manchester United players.
Van Gaal and his 25-man squad touched down in Los Angeles yesterday morning (Singapore time) for the first leg of their pre-season tour.
United play the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday before heading to Denver, Washington DC and Detroit.
After arriving in Los Angeles, van Gaal and his players headed straight for the beach and then, after a brief stroll, to the Beverly Hills hotel where they will spend the next six nights.
Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher and Juan Mata all signed autographs for some of the 100-plus fans who had gathered to greet them.
Van Gaal and his squad had training scheduled at the StubHub Center, home of the Galaxy.
NOT IN SQUAD
Notable absentees include Patrice Evra, Anderson and Bebe.
Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez, Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj are also not with the squad after their World Cup exertions.
Youth-team products Sam Johnstone, Tyler Blackett, Michael Keane, Reece James, Jesse Lingard and Will Keane are part of the touring party.
However, there was also no room for James Wilson and Tom Lawrence, who made their first-term debut at the end of last season.
United had announced earlier this month that stars like Wayne Rooney, David de Gea and Mata would travel to the US along with new signings Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera.
Michael Carrick is also out after undergoing ankle surgery on Thursday morning that could rule him out for the first two months of the season.
In his first press conference on Thursday, van Gaal said he would spend the next three or four weeks assessing the players he has at his disposal before deciding on potential new signings and departures.
- PA Sport.
Vlaar can fit in at United: McGrath
Former Irish international Paul McGrath believes Aston Villa's Ron Vlaar can solve Manchester United's defensive problems.
With the departure of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, the Red Devils look undermanned in the centre of defence.
New manager Louis van Gaal has been linked with moves for Feyenoord star Stefan de Vrij and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels.
But former United and Villa star McGrath believes van Gaal should look at another Dutchman.
He believes Villa's stopper Vlaar, who starred for van Gaal during Holland's creditable World Cup campaign, might be the answer.
"Man United's defence is an area which could do with strengthening," he told the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast show.
"They have lost Vidic, Ferdinand and probably Evra... I'm hoping he'll bring in a good experienced defender.
"Ron Vlaar would be on that list."
- Wire Services.