Under Louis Van Gaal, Manchester United have struggled to gain consistency and they’ve failed to make an impact in the league since the Dutchman’s arrival. Despite spending around £250 million on transfers, United currently sit out of the top four and the title appears to be out of their reach. Recent calls for the manager’s sacking has added a further cloud over what has already been a disappointing season but has Louis Van Gaal’s time at Manchester United really been that bad?
The former Netherlands coach has a record that would rival anyone’s and there’s no wonder such a CV attracted England’s most successful club. After guiding his national side to the World Cup final in 2010, Van Gaal was snapped up by the Red Devils in an attempt to take Manchester United back into European competition and winning ways following a disastrous fall under David Moyes. The former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager, has notched up a total of 12 major trophies including six league titles in three different countries: the Bundesliga, the Primera Division and the Eredivisie . He’s also claimed the Champions League and UEFA Cup trophies as well as domestic cups in Germany and Spain. When Robin Van Persie, broke the all time leading goal-scoring record for the Netherlands in 2013, it looked like destiny had brought his national manager to Manchester United.
However, since his arrival, it’s not been the fairy tale story fans had hoped for. The last two summers have been eventful under Van Gaal and over 40 transfers were made between the summer of 2014 and 2015. Of those to come to Manchester United, it was Anthony Martial, Angel Di Maria and Memphis Depay who made all the headlines. Van Gaal has named 13 of those signings as regular first team players but not all have been as successful as they were once predicted to be.
Depay, Di Maria, Schneiderlin, Shaw, Herrera and Martial all cost over £25m each but only the young Martial has really made an impression at Manchester United as a regular first team player. Herrera and Schneiderlin have lacked consistency and are not a certainty on the team sheet but they are starting to find their feet with the club -becoming more comfortable in a red shirt. Shaw, who looked in impressive form at the start of the season, suffered a severe knee injury which effectively ended his hopes of writing his name into Van Gaal’s starting XI for the remainder of the season. The young full-back was criticised for his lack of fitness when the Dutchman first arrived to Old Trafford but hopefully Shaw can fight his way back into contention next season.
Depay and Di Maria have perhaps been the most disappointing signings since Van Gaal took over at Manchester United. The Argentine, lasted just 12 months at the club after a record-signing brought him oversees from Real Madrid, with former United star, Cristiano Ronaldo, giving the midfielder his backing. He was sold for £44.3m after only netting on 4 occasions during 32 appearances for Manchester United. Depay has enjoyed up and down moments since his move in the summer of 2015 but has been under recent critisicm due to a poor run of form and has found himself side-lined for the majority of the new year.
However, despite it appearing all doom and gloom for United fans, Louis Van Gaal might be responsible for one of the club’s most important transfer involvements; preventing David De Gea from leaving Manchester United.
If Van Gaal’s reign at United ends prematurely, his most important contribution may never be recognised and that in itself proves the high level of expectancy that surrounds the English side. Amidst loud groans of frustration and continuing calls for his sacking, Van Gaal’s ‘disappointing’ time in charge of Manchester United hasn’t actually been as poor as many make out. If there’s any positive legacy for the Dutchman to leave behind, it was his ability to keep hold of United’s most precious asset and that isn’t a bad contribution to make. Include the signing of Anthony Martial, one of Europe’s most wanted youngsters, and Van Gaal’s time as Manchester United manager doesn’t appear to be a complete failure.
David De Gea, widely regarded as one of the best goal-keepers in world football, joined Manchester United in June 2011 and has gone on to make over 200 appearances for the club. The young spaniard is one of the league’s best shot stoppers and averages a performance rating of 6.74 according to whoscored.com stats for the 2015-16 season. His contribution to the former champions’ side cannot be underestimated and it was crucial Van Gaal retained him for the upcoming season.
The goal-keeper was voted Manchester United’s player of the season for the 2014-15 campaign and excluding Wayne Rooney, he’s become one of the fans’ favourite players. Once again, the 25 year-old has proven to be just as effective this season and notable performances against Liverpool, Southampton and Stoke City reminded fans just how good he was. There’s no wonder the world’s top clubs were after his signature in the summer.
De Gea’s save percentage rate (72%) is one of the highest in the Premier League and a total of 92 saves in all league appearances, puts him near the top of the pile in a list of impressive stats. With 10 clean sheets to his name and a number of world class performances on record, his goal-keeping statistics are only rivalved by Manchester City’s Joe Hart, who has enjoyed the help of one of the league’s strongest defences in recent years.
It was widely reported that Real Madrid were after the Spaniard but it wasn’t until the end of the summer when business really started to begin. However, just as fans were preparing for the worst, the deal fell through for reasons which are still unclear. Whatever the reasons and despite the confusion, Van Gaal had insisted throughout that he believed De Gea would stay for the following season and sure enough, the goal-keeper signed a new four-year deal just days later. After securing his services for another season at least, Van Gaal then had the task of encouraging the goal-keeper to perform and he did so with great effect. As a result, De Gea has remained a loyal player to the club and Manchester United’s European qualification hopes remain very much alive.
De Gea’s stay was the most important contribution of Van Gaal’s time at Manchester United so far but the signing of Anthony Martial was another feat he deserves credit for. Martial, who signed from Monacco for a fee believed to rise to over £55m, has been hugely succesful since his arrival to Old Trafford. The 20 year-old made an impressive start to his Manchester United career, coming off the bench to score on his debut against rivals, Liverpool. Since joining, he’s made 26 appearances and has added 8 goals to Manchester United’s tally – providing goal threat and prowess in attack. With an average performance rating of 7.01 per game, a stat which beats even De Gea’s, Martial has been one of United’s best perfomers this season and his influence on the top four chase will be crucial in the coming weeks.+++
Aside from the impressive feats of securing Martial’s transfer and preventing De Gea’s, Manchester United’s season has been anything but impressive so it’s easy to understand the fans’ frustrations. However, in Louis Van Gaal, United have a manager capable of attracting the world’s best players and equally as important, keeping them. His past achievements and the feats he’s already managed under difficult circumstances demands patience. Van Gaal’s reign hasn’t been all that bad and De Gea stands in the Manchester United goal as a symbol of that.