Louis Van Gaal has a managerial CV the envy of football coaches worldwide. Having won major honours at the helm of Ajax, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, whilst also leading his home nation The Netherlands to the semi-finals in the recent 2014 World Cup in Brazil. So what next for the man many deem a footballing genius? The vacant role of manager of another club giant in Manchester United of course, and after the failing of predecessor David Moyes, surely the Dutchman would bring a world class plan for a world class team in need of some direction. Surely?
Unfortunately for Red Devil’s fans this season’s results have disappointingly mirrored those of last season under Scotsman Moyes’ with United in a top 4 battle and 11 points off top spot. Numerous different system changes from week to week with numerous different players appearing in different positions. After a bright start from big money recruit Angel Di Maria, performances have stalled and in United’s recent FA Cup tie, his red card set the tone for Arsenal to win the tie 2-1, with old boy Danny Welbeck adding insult to injury with the winner. Less said about Falcao the better. This Sunday brought another big game for the red half of Manchester against a Spurs side who have been generally impressive all season. Many people believe that Tottenham’s success has come from a settled side, under leadership from the man-with-a-plan Pochettino. A recognisable system tweaked here and there when necessary, blended with a consistent team has left Spurs just 3 points behind big spenders United, whilst also reaching a League Cup final.
One great benefactor of Pochettino’s tactics has been English frontman Harry Kane. In his breakthrough season for the White Hart Lane club Kane has netted 26 times, amazingly, this is the exact same number that Rooney, Van Persie and flop Falcao have mustered up together. Oh, and Kane has done so in just over half the appearances, registering 107 minutes per goal to the United trios 222. Although discredit can be taken away from United and England captain Rooney due to Van Gaal’s continual desire to play Rooney in a deeper midfield role, questions of Van Gaal and the under performing United midfield must be asked. A question rarely required in United’s illustrious history.
Although Van Gaal has somewhat sorted out United’s defensive woes as injuries clear- Smalling and Jones both still manage to look like calamities waiting to happen- the free-flowing attacking football fans have come to love from Old Trafford is still nowhere to be seen. It’s time for Van Gaal to settle on a consistent team and formation revolving around attractive attacking ‘Man United’ football. The pre-match line up looked fairly promising with Rooney up top, Mara, Herrera and Carrick in midfield, and Fellaini further forward. Also no Falcao and the suspended Di Maria (blessing in disguise?).
The result of the game was even more promising for United fans as their team ran riot in the opening half entering the break 3 goals up. An excellent left footed finish from Fellaini got the reds off to a great start (and a man of the match performance to boost), assisted by ex Spurs player Michael Carrick, who soon after netted a neatly placed header into the bottom corner to make it 2-0. Rooney added the 3rd in his natural position latching on to a loose pass and fending off 3 Spurs defenders to finish clinically past Lloris. Arguably United best performance of the season, a top 4 spot is now firmly in their own hands, and with a tough fixture run-in now upon Van Gaal’s men, another good performance and a swing in momentum could benefit United handsomely. If Van Gaal can indeed find some consistency then with the right recruits over summer United could soon be challenging for the title again. Spurs on the other hand will be extremely disappointed with the result but don’t expect anybody to panic as Pochettino will be sure to address any issues he sees fit, without any wholesale changes of course.