Charlie Austin came off the bench late on to score on his debut, sinking Manchester United in the process after another dire performance and subsequently heaping even more pressure on to Louis Van Gaal. The 1-0 defeat to Southampton was another real misery compiler, adding to the myriad of poor results and performances in recent weeks at Old Trafford, much to the dismay of the United faithful who are becoming rather accustomed to what they’re watching week in week out by now.
Philosophy? What Philosophy?
Van Gaal’s style has come in for heavy criticism and justifiably so, nearly every match is painstakingly boring to watch and suffice to say it’s a far cry from the entertaining sides built by Sir Alex in the past.
Whilst it is partly the job of the players to put on a show for the fans, LVG’s tactics have undoubtedly restricted certain players. Club captain Wayne Rooney has suffered in particular, having to sacrifice himself for the good of the team, taking up unnatural positions and playing an extremely selfless role in order for Van Gaal to accommodate other players into the starting line-up. That’s not to say Rooney going off the boil is completely down to the man in charge, but it surely plays a big part.
However, whilst fans are understandably unimpressed with the lack of attacking prowess, creativity and flair, the Dutchman seems to have cracked the code to United’s leaky defence.
During David Moyes’ short tenure at Old Trafford, and even towards the end of Ferguson’s reign, the defence was a real worry with comical blunders a fairly common occurrence, but since Van Gaal’s arrival United have looked remarkably secure at the back. Chris ‘Mike’ Smalling, now 26, once a laughing stock in the Red Devils back line, has matured hugely under the guidance of the former Netherlands coach to become one of the best in the league, and there are signs that even Phil Jones has started to develop into an accomplished centre half when he’s not injured, throwing his head at the ball or pulling strange faces.
Comparisons And Statistics Are All Well And Good, But In Reality They Hold Little Truth
With regards to the afore mentioned David Moyes, much has been made of the comparisons between the performances of himself and Van Gaal throughout the season. Many feel that Moyes was doing a better job with 3 more points and his side still in the Champions League, despite finding himself two places lower in the league table at this stage of the season. Some are even suggesting that they’d rather have Moyes back at the helm, and although it might seem reasonable on the surface, it’s a rather preposterous proposition when you think about it properly.
Moyes’ tactics relied heavily upon wide-men, Valancia, Young and Januzaj in particular, and plenty of crosses being delivered towards the likes of Van Persie in the box. It’s something that failed miserably when you look back on his solitary season in charge, with very few crosses finding their intended target and possession gifted back to the opposition. Fast forward 18 months and fans are now crying out for more play down the wings, an injection of pace into the side, and it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who is content with Van Gaal’s possession based tactic.
United fans hated the Scotsman when he was at the club, and now Van Gaal is the target of the same vitriol. Neither set-up has brought the success the owners would have been looking for, so don’t be the one who ridiculously suggests to bring Moyes back when it failed so miserably the first time.
Van Gaal Has Brought The X-Factor Back To Old Trafford, Albeit In A Strange Sense Of The Word
It’s fair to say that Manchester United lost some of their power in the footballing world with the appointment of David Moyes and the departure of Sir Alex, but Van Gaal has gone some way to restoring that magic and dominance.
Many feared the worst when Marouane Fellaini was the only summer signing after David Moyes joined, and they were right to feel that way. United typically scout out their talent carefully, and they certainly don’t tend to panic buy players who are simply not good enough for the club- especially when they cost nearly £30 million. That was the first sign of Moyes’ naivety when greeted with financial power, and one of the main reasons he didn’t succeed at the club. Since arriving in 2014, Louis Van Gaal has managed to attract a number of high profile players to the Theatre Of Dreams, even after United had finished 7th under the guidance of Moyes, and had no European football.
Angel Di Maria is a prime example of how the Dutchman’s stature in the game was used to persuade players to move to an, at the time, undesirable club. His move from Real Madrid was a British transfer record, and it was an incredible deal for United considering it’s usually the Premier League’s best players leaving for Spain, not the other way around. Despite only lasting one season in Manchester before flying off to PSG where he’s now firing on all cylinders, much the same as former striker Javier Hernandez at Bayer Leverkusen, Di Maria’s move reinstated Manchester United as one of the giants of the European game. That is something that fans must be thankful for, and it’s mostly down to Van Gaal’s reputable record at other top clubs.
During his time at United he’s brought in the likes of Daley Blind, who at a 25 provides exceptional versatility in the midfield and defence and still has his best years ahead of him. Add fan favourite Ander Herrera and one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League in Morgan Schneiderlin to the mix, and you’ve got another generation of players who can replace Carrick and co who are on the decline.
We Always Knew It Was Going To Be A Short Stay; Van Gaal Really Is Building For The Future
In the summer of 2015 Van Gaal brought one of Europe’s hottest prospects, by the name of Memphis Depay, to Old Trafford. Despite his slow start to life in the Premier League where stand-out performances have been few and far between, the former PSV man and free kick specialist is no doubt going to play a huge part for years to come for the next manager of United, whenever he may arrive.
The same can be said for Luke Shaw, who after a troubled first season where his fitness levels were under constant scrutiny, started to look like the real deal and worth every last penny- and there are a hell of a lot of them- at the start of the 2015/16 season. That was, until, he was on the receiving end of that horrific leg break in the Champions League against PSV; an injury which could see him on the sidelines and missing the Euro’s in France this summer. One hopes that when he does eventually return, he rediscovers the form that saw him win a lot of plaudits not so long ago.
The final piece of the puzzle is that of Anthony Martial, who in contrast to Phil Jones, appears to have just the one facial expression; a steely look of determination, yet somehow plagued with calmness. The Frenchman, recently named European Golden Boy (hottest prospect in Europe), has all the credentials required to go right to the top, and whilst he may have been a signing for the future, he has arguably been United’s best player so far this season. His ability to run at people with no fear reminds me somewhat of Wayne Rooney all those years ago- on his day he looks as if he can take on anyone in the world.
Whether Van Gaal does eventually get the sack before the end of the season or not, it will be justifiable, but whilst fans may not appreciate his work now, he’ll have played an important part in building for the years ahead. It would seem odd to get rid of him in January given that there are no reasonable replacements, especially with Guardiola supposedly heading across town to Manchester City in the summer, but stranger things have happened. That’s football for you.