By Greg Stobart
When Louis Van Gaal held talks with Manchester United executives about becoming the club’s new manager, he bragged that he could make the team compete again for the Premier League title without spending a penny of their £150 million transfer budget.
It was brash, arrogant, ambitious and exactly what they wanted to hear after a disastrous period under David Moyes in which the Scot constantly complained and looked to play down expectations.
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He proved it at the World Cup as he guided a decidedly average Netherlands squad to the World Cup semi-finals when most experts in his own country had written off their chances of even qualifying for the knockout rounds.
That mindset might explain why Van Gaal is not panicking in the same manner as many United supporters about the club’s business in the summer transfer window so far.
The 62-year-old has spelled out what he wants to Woodward, with a central defender, central midfielder and winger unsurprisingly featuring high on his list of priorities.
He also wants to sell off players who don’t fit in to his philosophy. Reports that Marouane Fellaini will be allowed to leave less than a year after his £27.5 million transfer are unsurprising given Van Gaal’s focus on technical ability over physical attributes.
Van Gaal is as aware as anyone of the need to strengthen in midfield - United's age-old problem dating back to the final years of Sir Alex Ferguson's era - but he knows what he wants.
The Dutchman pulled the plug on talks to sign Toni Kroos from Bayern Munich, for example, because he wanted to sign a more athletic midfielder to support the many options he has to play in the No. 10 role - Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa among them.
His dream signing would be Netherlands midfielder Kevin Strootman and Van Gaal is prepared to wait for his compatriot’s return from a serious knee injury and make a move for the Roma midfielder in January.
His obsession with Strootman might also explain why United have been so keen behind the scenes to play down the continual links with Juventus star Arturo Vidal.
Unlike last summer, when Woodward and Moyes bumbled and fumbled as they missed out on target after target, from Cesc Fabregas to Gareth Bale, there is no such sense of panic this year.
Woodward may have boasted earlier in the month that United can afford to break the world transfer record, but that is not the way Van Gaal likes to operate. He does not want a 'name', considering himself primarily as a coach who wants additions he can trust to slot in to his system and philosophy.
United have already spent the best part of £60m this summer on Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, with the latter looking particularly impressive in United's pre-season preparations and plenty still left in the bank for more signings.
The best supported, most successful and richest club in the country, United is still a massive draw for potential signings despite their failure to even qualify for Europe as they finished seventh in the Premier League last season.
Van Gaal’s standing within the game as a coach who has won titles across Europe is also a significant selling point for any young player taking a serious interest in the development of their game.