What has made Strootman Van Gaal’s No.1 Manchester United target?
The Roma and Netherlands midfielder is still recovering from a serious knee injury, but the Red Devils boss is prepared to bide his time and make a bid in January
Aug 1, 2014 10:00:00
By Kris Voakes | International Football Correspondent
He might still be recovering from the serious knee injury which ruled him out of the World Cup, but it is easy to see why Louis van Gaal and Manchester United are so hell-bent on making a serious bid for Kevin Strootman.
The 24-year-old has already developed quite a reputation on the continent thanks to his performances for PSV and then Roma, and his former Netherlands boss has rightly identified the midfielder as the priority target for his new United squad.
Van Gaal knows exactly what difference Strootman makes to any team, having changed his tried and trusted 4-3-3 formation to a 3-5-2 on the eve of the World Cup solely because of his star midfielder’s absence. Given his intention to implement the same shape at Old Trafford, it’s little wonder there is just one man for the job.
It is easy to see why Strootman is that man. From the early days in the Netherlands to his first season in Rome, he has stood out throughout his short career, imposing his game wherever he has been.
Having started out in the junior ranks at Sparta Rotterdam, relegated in 2010, it quickly became obvious that he was too good for the second tier. He did not hang around, either. Halfway through the following season he was snapped up by Utrecht, and, after making his Netherlands debut a month later, he was soon on the move again as PSV came knocking.
It was in Eindhoven that he really began to build his profile as a first-class midfielder, dominating the centre of the park for the famous club. Even after the return of Mark van Bommel from AC Milan, a man who may have felt entitled to his old role following seven sparkling years away from the club, Strootman continued to boss matches for the Rood-witten, with the ex-Bayern Munich man forced to take up an unfamiliar role on the right of the midfield three.
Last summer his staggering early rise continued when he left PSV for Roma in a €17 million deal. So highly rated was he at Trigoria that the management handed him the No.6 shirt which had previously been retired for club legend Aldair. But rather than shrink under the expectation, Strootman quickly became a key feature of the new-look Giallorossi.
*2013-14 Serie A stats
Rudi Garcia’s side hit the ground running with 10 successive Serie A wins as they launched a rather unlikely Scudetto bid, and the Dutchman was at the heart of the positivity which punctuated their season. In a side boasting the likes of Daniele De Rossi and Miralem Pjanic, quality ball-players in their own right, Strootman quickly became Roma’s star midfielder.