Where are Louis van Gaal’s first Manchester United starting XI now?
Van Gaal’s arrival signalled an intention from United to hire an experienced manager who knew how to take control of a big club.
However, the Dutchman’s reign hardly got off to the best start, with Swansea emerging with a 2-1 victory in Van Gaal’s first game in charge on August 16 2014.
United would not taste victory until their fourth game of the season – a 4-0 victory over QPR – in a run that included a humiliating 4-0 reverse at MK Dons in the League Cup. However, Van Gaal would go on to return United to the Champions League positions before winning the FA Cup a year later.
But five years on since Van Gaal’s debut match, where are his first starting XI now?
Amazingly, six of the eleven remain at the club, with another – Ander Herrera – only departing this summer. A look on the bench shows seven players with more interesting career paths, ranging from the World Cup to the Chinese Super League.
David de Gea – GK
De Gea was entering his fourth season at United in 2014, and remains United’s first choice goalkeeper. He has made 363 appearances in total, winning the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League since the defeat against Swansea.
Phil Jones – CB
Jones joined the same year as De Gea, and also remains at the club. His performances split the fanbase, but the England man has been an ever-present in the squad under Van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Chris Smalling – CB
Smalling joined a year before Jones, and is another player still at Old Trafford. The arrival of Harry Maguire has put the pair down the pecking order and both now face a fight for their places.
Tyler Blackett – CB
Big things were predicted for Blackett, but the defender never managed to kick on at United, playing just 12 times. Instead, he spent a season long loan at Celtic in 2015/16, before joining Reading on a permanent deal that summer. Blackett remains at the Madjeski Stadium, and has made 100 appearances for the Royals.
Jesse Lingard – RWB
Back in 2014, Lingard could still be referred to as a youngster, but now he is a more senior member of the squad. Lingard had spent time on loan at Birmingham and Brighton the season before Van Gaal’s arrival, and was sent to Derby later that campaign. He is now a regular for club and country.
Darren Fletcher – CM
Fletcher might not have known it at the time, but the Swansea game will have been the last time he started a season as a United player. He ended his 15-year association with the club in February 2015, joining West Brom on a free transfer. The popular midfielder joined Stoke two years later, before being released this summer.
Ander Herrera – CM
Herrera was making his debut against Swansea, going on to play 189 times before joining PSG this summer.
Ashley Young – LWB
Around 2014, Young was making his transition from winger to defender, so it makes sense he was deployed at wing-back vs Swansea. Now entering his eighth year at United, Young will help Solskjaer‘s young full-backs this season.
Juan Mata – CAM
Mata joined in the January before Van Gaal arrived, and has gone on to make 219 appearances at United. The Spaniard could be set for a more involved role this season following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera.
Javier Hernandez – ST
Hernandez would only make two more appearances for United before a season long loan at Real Madrid was followed by a permanent move to Bayer Leverkusen. ‘Chicharito’ now plays at West Ham, having joined the Hammers in 2017.
Wayne Rooney – ST
United record goalscorer left Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho in 2017 to spend a season at boyhood club Everton. A move to DC united in the MLS followed, where Rooney has 25 goals and 13 assists in just 46 appearances. The 33-year-old will join Derby County in January.
Adnan Januzaj – left in 2017 after loans at Dortmund and Sunderland, and he now plays for Real Sociedad. He scored against England in the 2018 World Cup.
Shinji Kagawa – at Real Zaragoza after he returned to Dortmund, via a loan spell at Besiktas.
Maroane Fellaini – plays for Shandong Lueng after departing United earlier this year.
Michael Keane – on the fringes of the England squad having joined Burnley before a big money move to Everton.
Ben Amos – re-joined Charlton this summer after playing for seven other football league clubs throughout his career.
Reece James – new signing for Doncaster after permanent spells at Wigan and Sunderland since leaving United.