LOUIS VAN GAAL has raised doubts over the long-term futures of Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay by declaring he still wants to buy two pacy wingers.
Even though youngster Lingard scored a memorable first senior goal and Mata continued his 100 per cent record from the penalty spot, Van Gaal is still far from satisfied with the balance of Manchester United’s attack.
After United’s patient but uninspiring win over well-organised Albion, Van Gaal repeated his desire for more speed and creativity on the flanks. Quite where that leaves current wide men Lingard, Mata and the out-of-favour Depay remains to be seen.
Asked how he feels United are evolving as he nears the half-way point of his three-year contract, Van Gaal said: “I have said already in my first year many times we need speed and creativity on the wings. You have seen that now we play with Lingard and Mata and they are not the most speedy wingers in the world.
“So first we must first finish [address] that problem and then we can see how we play and how we are in balance when playing with speedy wingers.”
Despite spending about £250m and with promising youngsters like Lingard pushing their claims, Van Gaal made it clear he is ready to raid the transfer market again to boost United’s goals output – if the players he wants are available in January or next summer.
He added: “I want to buy a lot of players but not all the players I want are for sale. It is dependent on a lot of factors.”
For now he is content that Lingard, 22, is giving his team the penetration on the flanks that £25m summer signing Depay was supposed to provide.
But Van Gaal has warned England manager Roy Hodgson it would be premature to promote United’s latest home-grown player – he has been with the club since he was seven – to the England squad.
On the other side of the dugout, Albion boss Tony Pulis lamented three lapses.
Chris Brunt headed a clearance straight at Lingard for his well-taken goal, substitute Saido Berahino missed a sitter to equalise and Gareth McAuley picked up an unnecessary red card for bringing down Anthony Martial for Mata’s added-time penalty.