I was watching Mystic River the other day. If you haven’t yet you soon should, its pure cinematic genius. Of the many gems on offer in an all-star cast is Sean Penn, he’s at his absolute best in this, so good that he walked the Oscar for best actor, when he did, he gave a speech that was beautiful in its honesty.
He said something like how he appreciated the support of his colleagues and peers as he knows he’s not always enjoyable to be around, or difficult to work with, yet they still back him anyway.
As soon as I got to the end of that thought, my mind immediately leapt to Louis van Gaal’s face.
He’s the football equivalent of Penn if ever there was one. He’s achieved success over a long period in a very competitive industry, and those in that industry have no neutral opinion of him. He’s either loved as a game changer, or hated as a pain in the arse that has painfully blighted the life of anyone who has had the misfortune to have worked with him.
As with Penn, those who don’t like the man or his methods, Louis has continued to earn the support of those he’s working with and for as his methods are successful, and success is often worth taking the patient approach. It’s why men in relationships often pretend to genuinely care about their other half’s issues with the receptionist at work, those listening nods may well pay off in the good lady doing her special kind of nodding later on. It’s what we do as human beings to get by and try and pick up our wins in life.
It’s what we’re trying to do as fans. We have grudgingly accepted a style of football less pleasing on the eye than what we’re used to. We have accepted it in the hope that it will at least bring the side a run of ugly victories that give us the hope of something to show for being bored to death in an open top bus come May next year.
What we’ve seen in the games since Everton is that we do not have much chance of that happening. This continued focus on not losing is holding us back from achieving the wins that make a difference to the season.
City and Palace are not easy games on paper, but they’re games that a squad as good as ours can be can go out and win if they play with the intent to do so. What we saw in both those games was that it took 80 minutes for that intent to be shown. Any of us who has ever slept through an alarm clock will know, when you start trying to do something in 10 minutes that usually takes 50/60/70, then it never goes well, and that’s what we saw in 2 games that could have put a very different spin on our league standing had one or both been won.
A similar grip can be had about the Capital One cup exit, if you’re comparing trophies to the lasses in Little Mix, then this one is definitely the one who has a face that looks like Chucky, but when you’re approaching 3 years without one, you need to focus on winning something to maintain that appetite in the squad to succeed. In not pushing on and trying to command that game, we passed up on what could have been a welcome opportunity to end that barren spell.
We saw some fleeting signs on Tuesday night that the intent was starting to show through. I’d love to think it’s a sign that he’s learnt the error of his ways, and that he’s seeing the need to play the game in a manner that gives us the performances we crave as fans. But I fear that come the 82nd minute against West Brom, we’ll once again be looking at a scoreboard that shows we’ve done nothing to move on from woeful slop served up in recent league outings.
While I would have serious issues with fans booing him should that be the case. I’d find it very difficult to find any love for a man who’s making it so hard to enjoy being a red.