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Big Question_ Is Manchester United's upcoming summer spend safe with Van Gaal?

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The Old Trafford club spent £150 million on six players last summer but five of them flopped in their 2-1 loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup, with Falcao again left on the bench

When Manchester United splurged £150 million on six new signings last summer, the arrivals were branded with the rather mawkish nickname 'the Van Gaalacticos'.

They were supposed to help to inspire United to challenge once again for trophies and, at the very least, ensure a return to the Champions League.

Yet none of them have reached anything near the heights expected in their first season at the club – and it came to a head in Monday night's 2-1 home defeat by Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-final.

Angel Di Maria, the British record signing at £59.7m, provided the cross for Wayne Rooney's goal but ended the game on his own in the United dressing room following a foolish sending-off.

Radamel Falcao, the £240,000-a-week clinical goalscorer, stayed on the bench for the full game even when United needed a goal to keep their FA Cup hopes alive.

Ander Herrera, the £28.8m fans' favourite, was hauled off at half-time along with teenage prodigy Luke Shaw, another big-money signing from Southampton who has struggled for fitness and form.

Marcos Rojo lasted until the 73rd minute until he suffered the same fate, with Daley Blind the only summer signing to see out the full match as the Dutchman produced another composed - if almost entirely forgettable - performance in the midfield holding role.

Van Gaal used his pre-match programme notes to encourage the United supporters to remain patient as he praised the "new players" in the squad.

"I'm very pleased with the new players we have here," he wrote. "They're improving all the time and I don't think it will be long until we see the team performing as a complete unit.

"As supporters you have been patient and we look forward to being able to reward that."

But after 34 games in all competitions this season, it is starting to feel as though Blind was the only player whom Van Gaal actually wanted at Old Trafford.



In the Sir Alex Ferguson days, everyone knew who called the shots in terms of transfer targets and the executives – particularly David Gill – did the manager's bidding.

Now there is a power vacuum and no-one seems entirely sure what the structure is when it comes to acquiring players, despite the vast sums being thrown at building the squad.

Van Gaal might want to absolve himself of the responsibility at this stage.

The word is that the Dutchman gave his 'approval' to most of the deals but that they were driven by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who has looked at Real Madrid's policy of a superstar signing every summer and its impact both on the trophy room and the balance sheet.

But what manager would have said no to adding Di Maria and Falcao to their squad last August?

Either United signed the wrong players or Van Gaal has totally failed to get more than a six-out-of-10 season out of any of them.

Di Maria, for all his evident qualities, has struggled to come to terms with the speed and physicality of English football. He will improve but has a long way to go before he reaches a level anywhere near that of some of his predecessors in the famous No.7 shirt at Old Trafford.

He wants to be direct but his style is out of sync with Van Gaal's more measured, possession-based system while he runs down too many blind alleys before inevitably losing possession.

Falcao has been a disaster. He has just four goals in 20 appearances and been left on the bench for the full duration of the last two matches.

Van Gaal claimed in his post-match press conference on Monday that he was still happy with the decision to bring in the Colombian on a £6m season-long loan and to sell Danny Welbeck to Arsenal.

Welbeck had just scored the goal that knocked United out of the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage as the Gunners won 2-1 on a pulsating evening at Old Trafford.

Van Gaal felt that Welbeck was not good enough to play for Manchester United and, while the striker is hardly the type of player around whom you build a team, surely the Dutchman would have been better off with the England man over Falcao this season.

The deals for Shaw and Herrera were in place before Van Gaal took over but his obvious dissatisfaction with Herrera – to the point that Wayne Rooney has spent several months operating as a central midfielder – suggests that the Spaniard's first season at Old Trafford might even be his last.

United are preparing for another huge summer of transfer spending to correct the obvious imbalance in the squad, particularly the need to add defenders, a central midfielder and a striker to their squad.

Van Gaal will be expected to lead the recruitment process and identify players who can build the basis of a title challenge next season - and they can afford to spend another £150m even without Champions League football.

United's financial muscle and their reputation mean that they will be able to attract players to the club whatever the circumstances, as they proved last year.

But the jury is very much still out on whether Van Gaal  - or whoever is really calling the shots at Old Trafford - can be trusted to deliver what the club really needs.

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