The recent refrain from the Stretford End to Louis Van Gaal’s team is not flattering. Paul Scholes, the most famous luminary has also stated neither he, Ruud Van Nistelroy or Andy Cole would not have enjoyed playing in this United team. “The lack of creativity is boring to watch”, he said.
Van Gaal’s minimum remit is obviously Champions League qualification, with anything above considered a bonus by the owners the Glazers. Van Gaal, by his nature is a pragmatic coach, coaching by percentages and by a thorough authoritarian approach to his processes. Possession first and then developing into a more aesthetically pleasing side. Man United have scored fewer times than the top 6 sides and went 430 minutes (all games) without a goal prior to Rooney’s header versus CSKA Moscow.
Angel Di Maria was discarded after one year and an estimated £20m loss in value as he had differences with Van Gaal’s approach and principles. Van Gaal also released Wilfred Zaha losing a further £15m, Nani and Adnan Januzaj, 3 more creative players unlikely to stick to a rigid system of play and structure.
Van Gaal’s United are stuck between a rock and a hard place, LVG knows Champions League qualification will be immensely tough and feels he must stick to his pragmatic doctrine of defensive solidity, then attacking guile and panache is an after thought. The old management mantra of “it’s a process” comes to mind.
Every top manager or coach builds from the back, both Pochettino and Klopp have done the same at Spurs and Liverpool respectively. The burden for LVG is the expectations at United are far higher, largely due to the 27 year successful run of attacking penetrative football Sir Alex Ferguson had.
Unfortunately the £25m buy Memphis Depay has had a very fitful start to his United career. United fans are crying out for Anthony Martial to play the strikers role and for Rooney to play behind him as a creative force, but LVG to date has been reluctant to do this, but I think “needs must” and he will relent soon.
It’s a very interesting analogy that famous United fans such as Terry Christian (of Channel 4’s The Word) make when they state if David Moyes had made the same progress as LVG he would have been hounded out by now. The assumption being Van Gaal’s success at Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich buys him more time but this pragmatic robotic United is not the “United way.” Christian says he’d rather lose than watch this robotic “boring” football.
United in their current squad are limited but with in excess of £250m spent by LVG, these limitations have been the express choice of LVG. The only factor out of his control has been Depay’s dismal form. LVG’s relatively short managerial term at United, allegedly until 2017, suggests he doesn’t have the time to nurture a player and reap the benefits, he needs finished articles, which makes the Angel Di Maria episode further bemusing.
Much like Chelsea with Eden Hazard, poor planning and management has led to a dearth of creativity. Roy Keane recently on ITV’s Europa League highlights coverage said “if Ashley Young is a United player I’m a Chinaman.” His comment was on Ashley Young’s blatant dive to try and get a penalty in the Champions League match versus CSKA Moscow but his comment clearly highlights the “quality” he perceives in that United squad.
Admittedly world beating players are at a premium, arguably Paul Pogba will be reluctant to go there (again.) According to media reports United tried very hard to lure both Neymar and Gareth Bale this summer to no avail. United also tried very hard to get Muller from Bayern Munich. The United faithful want an offensive player they can drawl over and give them seat of the pants excitement and there are just not too many around.
Barca and Real have a monopoly on Ronaldo, Bale, James, Neymar, Messi and Suarez, and it’s very hard to see how LVG will appease the fans chanting “Attack Attack Attack” in the short term.