Manchester United have missed out on Feyenoord defender Stefan de Vrij after it was confirmed that the Dutchman is set to join Seria A outfit Lazio is a deal worth £6.7 million.
The 22 year-old was Louis Van Gaal’s prime target this summer as the new manager looks to put right the defensive crisis at Old Trafford, after the departures of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra. De Vrij’s snub will come as a bitter blow to Van Gaal, who must now look for reinforcements elsewhere.
The centre-back featured in every game for his national side under Van Gaal in the recent World Cup in Brazil, which saw the Netherlands finish in 3rd place. His performances, which also saw him score a goal in the 5-1 thumping of Spain, caught the eye of several clubs, but United looked like favourites to sign him.
Missing out on De Vrij means that Van Gaal will now have to consider other options. Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, another star at the World Cup, is rumoured to be on United’s radar. There is no doubt that there needs to be at least one solid addition to the backline this season, as United look to restructure a defence that saw a dramatic fall from grace last year.
Last season saw United concede 43 goals and lose 12 times en route to a 7th placed finish, their worst return since the Premier League began back in 1992. The centre-back partnership of Vidic and Ferdinand, which had served United so well for so long, was a shadow of its former self. With Vidic struggling with injury problems and Ferdinand losing his pace and strength, manager David Moyes often deployed Chris Smalling, Johnny Evans and Phil Jones at the heart of defence, with no combination proving to be particularly successful.
Van Gaal is expected to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford next season after their disastrous campaign last time around. The priorities for the Dutchman are clear. As an attacking force, United look as good as anyone in the league, with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera in their side. But defensively, they need to improve vastly to make a genuine push for the title.