It’s certainly an odd sight to see Manchester United not participating in European competition, but such is the reality of the post-David Moyes era.
The Dutchman’s short reign at the helm has seen tribulations of its own as he stamps his authority on matters at Old Trafford, with some unconvincing performances on the books.
The defence remains a particular area of concern for United with 12 goals shipped through eight games. Tightening up at the back will therefore likely be a priority in January.
Reports this week have claimed that van Gaal has taken a shine to Torino full-back Matteo Darmian, who impressed against England at the World Cup for Italy last summer.
Van Gaal is said to have ‘extensively’ scouted the 24-year-old and is weighing up a move for the £15 million-rated Granata star.
While van Gaal’s side sit home midweek this term sans European commitments, Darmian’s Torino compete in the Europa League – giving him an extra chance to showcase himself.
The Italian has enjoyed a fruitful campaign so far in his debut season in continental action, extending his solid run of form on Thursday night against Finnish outfit HJK Helsinki.
Darmian supplied the assist for Cristian Molinaro’s opener in a 2-0 win, all told completing 91% of his passes and creating three chances on 10 total crosses, with a tackle and an interception to boot.
This should please van Gaal, as Darmian continued to prove his attacking credentials on the night while acting as a defensive cog in a side that conceded just one shot on target.
Reports in Italy have suggested that United will struggle to sign Darmian in January, as Torino president Urbano Cairo is hesitant to sell a key player mid-season.
Should he continue to perform, however, it’s possible United could see fit to submit an offer for his services that the Granata would find difficult to refuse.
After picking up invaluable experience with Italy at the World Cup in the summer and now continental experience with Torino, his level of readiness for Old Trafford continues to rise.
United may well have to pay over the odds to get their hands on him before next July, but the more he shows week in week out the next two months, the more willing van Gaal should be to make a move for him in January if his interest in Darmain is genuine.