World Cups are shop windows for players seeking a move to the greener pastures of the Premier League, La Liga or Serie A. And the name in vogue after six days of World Cup action is Daley Blind. The 24-year-old won the Dutch footballer of the year last season after another impressive campaign at Ajax but wasn’t a name being linked with Manchester United before the tournament began. Southampton youngster Luke Shaw was the favourite to be snapped up as a long-term replacement for Patrice Evra. However, Louis van Gaal’s appointment and Blind’s performance against world champions Spain means his name is certain to fill column inches in the British media for the duration of the tournament. Blind delivered the diagonal cross which led to the greatest goal of Robin van Persie’s career – his words! The Ajax defender conjured an even better piece of magic to unleash Arjen Robben for Holland’s second after half-time. It is early days for the Dutch and Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation, but if Blind can replicate his impact against Australia and Chile, United supporters will hope Van Gaal redirects their flight home from Brazil via Old Trafford.
It is no secret that United desperately need to reinforce their midfield with quality signings. Juventus star Arturo Vidal has been a name touted with a move to Old Trafford throughout much of last season. With another United target, Kevin Strootman, sidelined for the tournament with injury, Vidal has a chance to catch the eye of Van Gaal in Brazil. Juve have reportedly want a cut-price £24m for the Chile international, but the South American’s bid to earn a move to the 20-time Premier League champions has started tamely. Struggling with fitness issues, Vidal was hauled off midway through Chile’s 3-1 victory over Australia. Whilst the midfielder wasn’t guilty of any grave mistakes, the 27-year-old was a shadow of the explosive player that has been the fulcrum of Juventus’s midfield over the past couple of seasons. But Vidal knows this, as highlighted by his clear dissatisfaction at his own performance on the touchline following his substitution.
Hummels, like Vidal, is another name that has long been linked with a move to United. With Red Devils stalwarts Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic leaving Old Trafford at the end of the season, Hummels is certainly a plausible transfer. Van Gaal has Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling to choose from at centre-half – expect the new United boss to invest in at least one top player in this position. Hummels, who is still a youthful 25 despite being a regular at Borussia Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp, is a powerful and towering centre-half. Portugal striker Hugo Almeida struggled coming up against Hummels in the Group G opener on Thursday, and the Dortmund centre-half looked comfortable against the Besiktas man. Question marks linger over his pace and vulnerability to balls over the top and Pepe’s sending off ruined the World Cup encounter as a spectacle and ensured Hummels had a relatively straightforward afternoon, even against the giant Eder before being replaced due to cramp. The pace of Ghana’s attack could provide a more telling test of Hummels on the World Cup stage. Of course, the German provides a Vidic-like presence at set-pieces, highlighted by his thunderous header against the Portuguese.
The affection shared between Robben and Van Gaal means the Dutch winger was always going to be a potential United target, especially considering the lack of genuine width in the current Red Devils side. However, the Bayern Munich forward’s performance against the Spanish has only served to intensify the rumour mill and clamour from United supporters for his capture. Van Gaal will want to sign players that he can rely and trust upon to make his initial months bump-free at Old Trafford. The 13-time Premier League champions will want to sign a big name, too, after a limp performance in last summer’s transfer window which led to immediate pressure being heaped on David Moyes. Robben was at his spectacular best against the world champions as he showed great composure to put the Dutch in front before producing the fastest sprint in football history to outpace Sergio Ramos, who is not a one-geared defender of the Hummels or Per Mertesacker mould, and still find the legs to dodge Iker Casillas and finish past a recovering Spanish defender. At 30, he wouldn’t be a signing for the future but would provide an immediate lift to the Old Trafford dressing room. And judging by his performance on Friday, there is plenty of zip left in Robben.
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