Louis van Gaal is holding United back – he must go now

Alexander Netherton says Louis van Gaal is making Manchester United ponderous and predictable and it’s time for a parting of the ways.
In a match where Jamie Vardy scored in his 11th consecutive league match, and demonstrated that a racist incident in the summer can be erased with a regular supply of goals, Manchester United set their own record. Ever since the 5-3 defeat to Leicester City last season, Louis van Gaal has set a remarkable record of about 60 incredibly boring approaches to football, and there’s no point him staying on any longer.
There have been two transfer windows since then for Van Gaal to set up the squad almost to his exact requirements, and United are coming up to their third, when they should add some reinforcements.
With Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia both injured, it seems that a defender might well arrive, and a striker such as Saido Berahino would make sense as United finished the summer transfer window still looking for attacking reinforcements. But after seeing this United side so often under this manager, one thing is clear: it wouldn’t matter if they signed Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and a cloned George Best, they’d still be impossibly, inexplicably dull.
Manchester United had the ball against Leicester City for about 70% of the game, depending on the measurement gauge you use. They dominate possession against almost every single team they play. They did against PSV in midweek, a poor side who sold their best player to United in the summer. And it was just the same: United struggle to score despite having the time and the players to do so.
For minutes at a time against Leicester, United would amble up one side of the pitch, play the ball between a midfielder, a full-back and a forward, and casually stroll around. From there, they’d move the ball back to the centre of defence or midfield, before trying the same thing on the opposite side of the pitch.
Then Ashley Young or Matteo Darmian would hoof a poor cross towards goal, or for the sake of variation they would play it back to the goalkeeper. Always the same, always at one pace. There would never be any increase in speed to force the opposition to think or be pulled out of position, it was simply a relentless attempt to keep the ball and hope the ball would somehow be magically transported into the goal.
United were lucky against Leicester. Claudio Ranieri’s side had conceded 20 times already this season, one of the worst records in the league, but against United they were given the chance to sit deep and just stare at their opponents, not needing to move to prevent any goals. When DannyDrinkwater headed behind a corner that didn’t need heading behind, United were able to score from a Bastian Schweinsteiger header, but that was it. The sole dangerous attempt from Manchester United came, and this time they scored. Against PSV, they didn’t, and now they are on the brink of the Europa League.
For a team that is so dominant in possession, a sensible manager would encourage his team to take slightly more risk in order to make sure that the team can create more chances. There’s nothing wrong in winning 1-0 if you are an owner, or if results are all you are interested in, but United cannot reliably do that.
As Leicester showed on the counterattack, and as others have shown throughout the season, United’s defence is not capable of shutting out sides for a full 90 minutes, as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic used to. Van Gaal chose not to upgrade on Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, so that is his own fault.
As is the frivolous use of some of the best players in the world. They are not on the level of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Barcelona’s, but they are on the rung below. United have Memphis, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial and Schweinsteiger. Ander Herrera is reliably creative if not the type of match-winner that is essential. They had James Wilson, a player capable of running at speed, and Jesse Lingard is still there and able to offer the same thing. In the summer transfer window, United decided against paying the fees required forAntoine Griezmann, Pedro and Marco Reus, and Van Gaal has decided to continue with Wayne Rooney. So that is all his fault too.
As is playing so ridiculously slowly. United have the forwards who have shown elsewhere, and in flashes at Old Trafford, that they can open up sides if they are allowed to. This week, an anonymous player said that he was “half the player” he could be under Van Gaal, such is the boring, tedious and grim instructions he makes his side play to.
On the cusp of being turfed out of Europe, and missing the chance to go top on Saturday night due to a desire for control above actually winning games. Whoever the player was who claimed he is half the player he could be is probably right, but with far more confidence we can say that Manchester United are half the team they could be, if only they were given the chance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.