Part of me finds Louis van Gaal quite entertaining but for a while now I’ve wondered why I’m still listening to him. The man, quite clearly, hasn’t got a clue what he is doing.
After Manchester United were dumped out of the Champions League by Wolfsburg I thought he might go, after the defeat at Bournemouth I thought he probably would go and after that loss to Norwich, at fortress Old Trafford, I expected him on a plane back to Amsterdam by Monday.
But Monday has been and gone and yet here he still is. The game at Stoke on Boxing Day is surely a must win, it has to be, doesn’t it? But we’ve been here before.
Credit where credit is due he’s great value in press conferences, he has so much misplaced confidence it’s like he’s snorted all the coke in Manchester, then got a cab down the M62 and cleared out Merseyside. But being a character will only get you so far and Van Gaal has reached the end of that ride.
I say misplaced because United have looked so poor, how can he retain this unshakable belief that he is one of the world’s elite managers? Perhaps if Chelsea’s season had panned out differently there would be more attention on LVG but the struggles of the defending champions have deflected attention and bought the Dutchman a bit of time. That time may now be running out.
It isn’t just a lack of ambition in United’s play, there’s also his poor recruitment record. His transfer dealings are as equally bizarre as his tactics… spending money like he’s just come home from the pub and decided that’s the right time to do a bit of clothes shopping online. Then when the stuff arrives he just leaves it in the cupboard, wasting away.
Let’s have a look at some of those signings.
Angel Di Maria
Should have been great, wasn’t. They paid £50+ million for him and made an £8million loss when he went to Paris Saint-Germain, admittedly that could have been a lot worse – but considering the calibre of player he is it should have been so much better. The Argentina international should really be in Old Trafford tearing it up now and I think under a different, some may say better, manager he would be.
LVG paid £25million for Herrera and there is a very good player there, but he never uses him and doesn’t seem to trust him fully. This is the one that probably works best with my questionable clothes analogy. Herrera could well go on to be a United regular and maybe even a great but not until the current boss has gone.
Good value at just over £10million – but why the shit is he playing at centre-half? (I know he doesn’t play there all the time, but when he does I just think why?) Get a centre-half to play there, and get Blind in a role he’s more comfortable in, probably as a defensive midfielder.
I fear the same thing that happened to Di Maria is happening to Memphis, LVG just doesn’t know what to do with anyone with a bit of flair. He feels he should buy them but when they arrive he struggles to fit them in to his system. Anthony Martial is the exception at the moment but you fear the young Frenchman could fall by the wayside under Van Gaal at some point, if it can happen to Di Maria it could happen to anyone.
There are loads of others – he’s spent £250million since arriving and are United any better than they were when he took over? I would argue no, no they are not. They may have a better standard of player, but even if they do he is not getting the best out of them.
Manchester United were always going to struggle after Alex Ferguson retired – there was no way to avoid that – but that period should be over now and there should be, at the very least, shoots of recovery.
There may not be a great deal of insight or analysis in this but I think we’re past that now. You don’t need stats to tell you this is not how a Manchester United side should be playing.
Speaking after that loss to Norwich, he said: “I don’t think a change of management shall bring direct success – but that is what I believe. Maybe that is not so interesting.”
I think we’ll find out in the next few weeks whether a change in manager will bring ‘direct success’ or not.