This piece was submitted as a guest contribution by Stretty News reader Connor Tibble. Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comment section below or interact with Connor on Twitter via @AlonziConnor.
The appointment of Louis van Gaal was greeted with so much hope and optimism and a real belief that he would turn Manchester United back into the force they once were after a tough period under David Moyes. The reality is he hasn’t done that at all… but was such a transformation expected over the case of a few months?
Despite spending £150 million and adding two players to his arsenal of the highest calibre in Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria, van Gaal’s United have struggled to score goals even against League 2 opposition such as Cambridge United along with lack of any real creativity.
The whole season has been compound of systems and philosophies but whatever system van Gaal plays, United perform the same way. Slow, laboured, obsessed with possession and yet United have played more long balls than anyone else in the Premier League.
Another interesting point to be noted is that United also have the highest average possession in the Premier League. What does this tell us? It tells us United have no identity to their playing style and don’t really have any idea what they’re doing on the pitch which is evident every time you watch us this season.
It’s almost February and we still have no idea what the famed philosophy of Louis van Gaal is. Maybe he could tell us? Not likely because whenever a journalist asks any meaningful questions about our ‘playing style’ or formation he turns and accuses them of making up stories. Of course that doesn’t matter because as the majority of United fans will say “he’s a winner, he’s managed Barcelona and Bayern Munich, he knows what he’s doing.”
Yeah, he’s managed Barcelona and Bayern Munich but he’s been sacked from both clubs for doing the same as what he is doing at United. Being unbelievably stubborn in every aspect of his management and for isolating players for no reason and for tactically losing the plot. That’s football. Most people look at the ‘Honours’ section on Wikipedia that informs us of what he’s won but they don’t look at anything else.
Imagine if David Moyes had suffered the humiliation of being annihilated by MK Dons in the Capital One Cup? Fans would be slamming him for bad tactics, selecting the wrong players and basically being an awful manager. Not Louis van Gaal. After being out thought by a League One manager nearly half his age and selecting youth players who have no experience playing in the United first team, our lot didn’t question him at all. Why? His reputation once again for the simple reason that he has managed Barcelona and Bayern Munich rather than Preston and Everton.
The Radamel Falcao situation is another failure of the Dutch manager. Radamel Falcao a player who is desperate to earn a permanent move to the club so much and yet his manager seems to go out of his way at any given opportunity to criticise him. Yes Falcao has only scored three goals since joining the club but he hasn’t had the chance to get a consistent run in the team. Of course his injury in October stalled his progress, however Falcao’s return from injury was stalled and stalled by van Gaal who bleated on about match fitness and pretty much every excuse under the sun not to play the Colombian striker. Falcao got back into the side eventually over the Christmas period and scored 2 goals in 4 game proving if he gets a run in the team that he will score goals. Then came a crucial top 4 clash against Southampton and Falcao is bizarrely left out of the entire squad even though he wasn’t injured and played in the next game. Van Gaal claimed to prefer James Wilson for that game because of his “speed” but he also selected 2 centre backs on the bench. Surely for such a crucial game against a top four rival there would be a place for one of the best strikers in the world. The sad reality for United fans is that van Gaal has already decided Falcao is not for him and the stubborn nature of the United manager means he is more than likely to have no future at the club.
Van Gaal has this reputation for being a master tactician with his clipboard always in hand but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that Angel Di Maria is not a striker and Wayne Rooney is not a central midfield player. Of course Ander Herrera is a brilliant central midfielder but he seems to be completely out of favour despite looking fantastic whenever he plays. It is the same argument with the 3-5-2 debate. The decision to persist with this system is simply bizarre as none of the players look comfortable playing it. But van Gaal says it gives balance compared to any other formation even though anyone watching United play 3-5-2 can see the team looks as unbalanced as someone trying to stand on one leg.
The simple reason van Gaal doesn’t get much criticism laboured at him is because United are where they want to be – sitting on the edge of Champions League qualification. Although that looks more and more insecure every week with Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal looking like they’ve got a grasp on what they are about while United are still pondering along slowly.
The only reason United are in the top four is because of the teams mentioned above being inconsistent. If they had more consistency United would probably be where they were last season as van Gaal’s record is pretty much identical to that of David Moyes, a man considered to have failed massively last season.
For an alternative piece aka more supportive of Louis van Gaal, check out last week’s editorial.