The short answer to that question is: No I’m bloody well not. Last night United offered up another tepid, tedious, turgid display, something becoming a worrying regularity under Louis Van Gaal. Under David M***s United were inept and unimaginative. The football equivalent to an inebriated man trying his best line on every woman at the bar and earning a slap in the face every time. Under Van Gaal, a man so arrogant he does at times resemble a penis with a quiff, United are effective but in a crushingly monotonous way.
Slow. Predictable. More telegraphed than a punch thrown in an alcohol fuelled brawl in an Australian themed bar. This is Van Gaal’s United. Had anyone fallen into a 5 week coma last spring or disappeared into the mountains to live as a hermit before missing their Netflix account you would have returned to our decrepit civilisation and thought nothing had changed between February and now at Old Trafford. Apart from a gangly, mousy Argentine being replaced with a muscular Dutch, jazz artist.
It is bizarre that Van Gaal, having found an approach last season which had simultaneously managed to win matches and entertain, decided to abandon it. You get the feeling he just likes to be deliberately contrary to show how clever he is. That’s all well and good if you’re Derran Brown in Cesar’s Palace but when you’re managing a football club, showing off while deliberately alienating paying fans is a cheap move.
At the weekend united – not by choice – played a strikerless system at Watford. Until the adorable Ander Herrera went off injured, we were pleasing on the eye, including Walking in Memphis particularly looking like he was enjoying himself. With some more clinical finishing/Tony Marshall United would have been 3-0 up at half time. Last night, in a must win game Van Gaal reverted to type and dropped Juan Mata, who looked like he was regaining form after an off spell. The alternative saw us eventually resorting to Colleen’s husband deployed as a midfielder and a low, rent barely mobile Sideshow Bob impersonator upfront. It was grim.
Van Gaal’s attempts to shoehorn players back into the team who are contributing so little and look thoroughly miserable doing so rendered us more tedious and impotent than our interest in signing Cristiano Ronaldo.
We did of course have a few chances, Jesse Lingard, one of our few bright spots this season, missed a guilt edged chance that should have eked out a barely deserved win against an okay team. Eking out barely deserved wins against okay teams while sucking the atmosphere out of the place like a yawning, gaping abyss of despair has become our new trademark. Lovely.
As a fan, especially in the case of United fans, your priority is entertainment. As a United player your priority is to express yourself. Nobody sings about Sir Matt Busby’s team decades after their heyday because they played catenaccio. If I wanted to watch a team that was simply about winning at all costs I’d go and watch Chels…nevermind. You get the point.
One player was reported to have told a national journalist that he is only “half the player” he could be because of Van Gaal’s “philosophy.” That philosophy, if watching United is anything to go by, is more nihilistic than the works of Martin Heidegger or the films of Michael Bay. I would respond to that player that not only is he half the player he could be but this team is only half as good as United deserve.
By the way, this isn’t some piece pining for Fergie. Complaining how we don’t play like Fergie did. For the last four years of his reign, Fergie didn’t play like Fergie either, as the team retreated to pragmatism to make up for the lack of resources and an average squad.
Personally I am a romantic, I would prefer not to sacrifice the culture and philosophy on football United have always had just for a few trophies. If I was happy to do that, I would have been the first person clamouring for Mourinho to be made manager as he would have delivered at least one league title. I would prefer to win nothing and be entertaining, not in the 4-4 a game sense but in the playing with intensity, expressiveness and enjoyment. It means the fans enjoy themselves. It’s a novel idea I know but worth considering in the putrid, corporate gravy train known as the Premier League.
You can win and be entertaining of course but that doesn’t happen overnight. The challenge is to maintain the aesthetic while getting the balance right, not being depressingly conservative, not at United. It isn’t what we do.
Question is how will Van Gaal’s tenure be remembered years from now in the hearts and minds of United fans? Successful? Maybe. Functional? Probably. Perfunctory? Certainly.
Although once the Middle East conflict escalates probably never at all as we’ll get the privilege of living in a real life version of Mad Max.