Whoever takes over at Manchester United this summer, in all likelihood Louis van Gaal, he or she faces a rebuilding job that will define their stay at the club. Last summer’s transfer activity could be described as nothing short of a failure; making just one major signing –Marouane Fellaini – and at a higher fee than his release clause, which was already inflated itself.
That failure to strengthen set Moyes off to a bad start and is a large part of why he eventually lost his job. With lessons to learn from last summer, the new man must hit the ground running in the transfer market and if it is to be Van Gaal then rumours suggest that he is doing just that.
Links have already been made over Manchester United moves for Marco Reus and Toni Kroos, but to secure both would be ambitious, particularly given the shortcomings of new vice-chairman Ed Woodward last season.
So if United can sign just one of the headline grabbing pair, which should they prioritise?
Borussia Dortmund midfielder Reus has created 89 chances this season which, combined with United’s problems breaking down sides that put men behind the ball, particularly at Old Trafford, would suggest that he would be a perfect fit at the club.
No other player in the Bundesliga has created more than Reus, who has 13 league assists to go with his 16 league goals.
A quick comparison with United’s current crop of attacking midfield options also suggests that he would be an upgrade in attacking midfield. The German has created 3.74 chances per 90 minutes played – a higher tally than Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Shinji Kagawa and Adnan Januzaj and also has a better goals to minutes ratio than each of the quartet.
However, to pick Reus over Kroos would be a mistake, if United were to put their eggs in one basket and concentrate their efforts on one of the pair, given the side’s current attacking options.
Reus prefers to operate in a central attacking midfield role that is already looking cluttered even without the 24-year-old at the club. Kagawa, Mata and Rooney all want to play in the same role, while Adnan Januzaj can also play behind the striker.
Should Reus move to United then the squad would undoubtedly be stronger, but it would be a luxury and they would be improving an area of the squad that already looks to be fairly strong.
While the signing of Reus would give Van Gaal the luxury of being able to name Mata, Van Persie, Rooney and the German in the same side, the signing of a central midfield player is more of a necessity.
United have failed to dominate games this season and would have no such problems finding a space in the side for Kroos, who would walk into the team ahead of Michael Carrick, Fellaini, Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley.
Out of the top-four sides, who United ultimately still view as their competition, only Chelsea have averaged fewer passes per game than the Red Devils this season, largely due to the counter-attacking tactics of Jose Mourinho.
United’s low pass numbers have come more from poor form than a concerted effort to spring counterattacks which hints at the glaring lack of a central midfield player.
Between them, the four current central midfielders have just one assist all season – Fellaini’s from Tuesday's win against Hull, which was too little too late as far as creative output this season goes.
Kroos would add an ability to keep the ball, use it intelligently (Kroos plays over 65% of his passes forward) and to create chances. United have desperately lacked ideas from central areas this season, often resorting to long balls and pumping crosses into the box, setting a season record for 81 crosses against Fulham earlier this year.
The Bayern Munich man would help add the missing composure in central areas. Against United in the Champions League, he made 70 passes, easily more than Carrick and Fletcher combined, and created two chances.
He has created 1.6 chances per 90 minutes played this season, more than any of United’s current central midfield incumbents and if given a choice of Kroos or Reus as his first big decision, Van Gaal should prioritise central midfield as he looks to build the next great Man United side.
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- Manchester United
- Toni Kroos
- Marco Reus
- Van Gaal
- Marouane Fellaini