Van Gaal eyes midfield ace to ‘balance’ United

FA Cup Third Round: Preston v Manchester United: Tonight: Louis van Gaal will make signing a creative midfielder his top priority this summer.

Van Gaal eyes midfield ace to ‘balance’ United

Van Gaal has spent more than £150m (€202m) on seven new players since he took charge of Manchester United just over seven months ago, but he is still not happy with the squad at his disposal.

Angel di Maria, Daley Blind and Ander Herrera accounted for over two thirds of United’s spending spree last year, but Van Gaal thinks he still lacks a dynamic midfielder to dictate play.

The lack of such a figure in the current United squad has led the Dutchman to deploy Wayne Rooney in midfield. While Rooney is happy in midfield, according to Van Gaal, there is a feeling the England captain is being placed there as a stop-gap until a more suitable candidate becomes available.

When asked whether he was playing Rooney there because he felt no-one else was capable of fulfilling that midfield role, Van Gaal said: “Of course that’s the case. I’m looking for balance and I need it in midfield.

“The last games I played with Adnan Januzaj and Angel di Maria in the midfield positions. Then you need a certain balance for those kind of creative players.

“So when you have these creative players and you think that (Radamel) Falcao and Robin van Persie are also creative, then you have four creative players. Then you have to look for balance in your team.”

When it was put to him that signing a creative midfielder should be top of his agenda this summer, the 63-year-old agreed “Yes, of course.”

Roma’s Kevin Strootman could fit the bill. The midfielder was a regular in Van Gaal’s Holland team until he suffered a knee injury that ruled him out of the World Cup.

In an uncharacteristic move, Van Gaal last year declared his interest in signing the 25-year-old once his injury problems were over.

Strootman recently suffered another setback which will keep him out until the end of the season, but a summer move is not out of the question.

Paul Pogba, property of Serie A rivals Juventus, keeps being linked with his former club.

Either way, Rooney looks like he will have to spend some time in midfield until the end of the season.

There has been no hint of objection to that move from the 29-year-old himself, according to Van Gaal.

“He’s happy. Otherwise he should come to me and say he’s not happy and he never does,” said Van Gaal, who takes his team to Preston in the FA Cup tonight.

“He’s always friendly to me. He wants to perform what I want so that’s what I see.”

Van Gaal admits the United skipper may still be yearning for a move back to his preferred role.

“When the whole world is writing he has to be in the striker’s position, he will be thinking ‘maybe, hey’. He’s human,” the Dutchman added.

United will be without Michael Carrick for tonight’s tie at Deepdale as he has suffered a setback in his recovery from a calf injury, but Daley Blind should return following his head injury.

Van Gaal will make a late call on Robin van Persie, who is suffering with an unspecified injury.

Preston boss Simon Grayson was the manager of Leeds five years ago when they stunned United 1-0 in the third round, ending a near 30-year wait for a victory at Old Trafford.

It is 43 years since Preston faced the Red Devils and more than 55 years since their last win but, having done it once, Grayson sees no reason why he cannot oversee another shock.

He said: “Every time I go to Leeds people remind me about it. It’s a different club, different personnel, but I’ll draw from the experience. You don’t get the opportunity to do that very often. You have to have that belief you can do it.”

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