Daley Blind's Manchester United exit erases almost all memories of Van Gaal
Jose Mourinho's methodical and ruthless quest to erase Louis Van Gaal from the collective Old Trafford memory took another step forward yesterday as the club announced Daley Blind had returned to Ajax for around €20 million.
Since taking over a Manchester United squad in disarray at the beginning of the 2016/17 Premier League season, Mourinho has been on a mission to rebuild the former English champions by removing the deadwood from the squad. While he has moved on some players from the Sir Alex Ferguson era, his main focus has undoubtedly been targeted on players signed by United's previous manager, Louis Van Gaal.
Few would disagree that Van Gaal's spell in Manchester was disastrous. The Dutchman spent two frustrating years at Old Trafford, finishing fourth and fifth in consecutive years. His only piece of silverware during his tenure at the club, the FA Cup, was little consolation for his perceived slow and poor style of play.
Manchester United sacked the Dutchman in May 2016, swiftly replacing him with Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese wasted little time in targeting Van Gaal's influence on the squad, freezing out Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay, both of whom were marquee Van Gaal signings.
Schneiderlin played a total of only 11 minutes in Mourinho's first season in charge of Manchester United, having played over 2,000 minutes under Van Gaal the previous season. Similarly, Memphis Depay made just four substitute appearances in the Premier League under Mourinho in comparison to 29 total appearances the season before. Both players were moved on by the Special One in the summer of 2017.
Another player to suffer the effects of Mourinho's personal vendetta against Van Gaal was Bastian Schweinsteiger. The German World Cup winner was among Van Gaal's biggest signings in the summer of 2015, arriving on the back many successful seasons with his boyhood club, Bayern Munich.
Mourinho wasted little time in targeting Schweinsteiger, banishing the German from the first team dressing room and forcing him to play with the under-23 squad. These actions attracted heavy criticism from the media. However, in the summer of 2017 Mourinho had rid United of a third Van Gaal signing when Schweinsteiger joined Chicago Fire.
Now, Daley Blind has suffered the unfortunate consequences of being signed by Van Gaal. The Dutch utility player had started life under Jose Mourinho as a first-choice center-back, but was quickly ousted by Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo. He played occasionally at left-back during the 2016/17 season, replacing Luke Shaw after his horrific leg break.
However, last season Blind was almost completely forgotten, making just 5 appearances in the Premier League. His transfer to Ajax makes the Dutchman the fourth Van Gaal signing to leave Old Trafford since Mourinho took charge two years ago.
It is quite possible that a fifth will follow shortly if Man Utd can find a suitor for Matteo Darmian. Juventus seems the most likely destination for the Italian left-back at present.
Should Darmian move on this summer, only five of Van Gaal's 13 signings would remain at Old Trafford. All five of these players have struggled under Mourinho. Sergio Romero is a bit-part backup goalkeeper who generally plays in second-tier cup competitions. Luke Shaw's fitness issues and public dress-downs by the United manager have been well documented.
The remaining three players - Ander Herrera, Rojo, and Anthony Martial - have all struggled for game time under Mourinho and are far down the pecking order at Old Trafford.
It would surprise few if any of these five players left United during this summer transfer window and pushed the memory of Van Gaal even further from the collective consciousness of Manchester United.