If it wasn’t obvious already prior to the game against Chelsea – United’s ninth goalless draw of 2015 and our eighth winless game in a row – something is not quite right at United, and it hasn’t been for a while.
Louis van Gaal has epitomised everything that has gone wrong since Sir Alex left in 2013 – the anti-United, if you will. During his first season in charge we saw glimpses of brilliance while the fans (and board of directors) were content with the fourth-place finish that saw us re-enter the Champions League. We were also fooled into a sense of giddiness as the likes of Angel di Maria, Falcao and a host of World Cup stars were brought into the club, with spending exceeding £250million+ and rivaling the buying patterns that so many United fans have ridiculed Chelsea and Manchester City about. However this approach hasn’t worked at all and in reality, given the sort of manager van Gaal is, it was always destined to fail.
His ultra-defensive style has hindered our progression as a team – sucking the attacking spirit out of the side with his insistence on playing slow, unimaginative football – while the grotesque level of financial backing, something no manager in United’s history has been granted so early into their term, has proved to be a waste given his poor utilisation of certain individuals who appear suffocated in his rigid formations.
In addition to the above we are seeing the emergence of a new van Gaal that is becoming more familiar than the cool, calm manager we thought we were getting in the summer of 2014, as his petulance sees him regularly divert the attention off his sides’ poor results by placing it all on his theatrics in the press-room. In the days of social media dominance he, and to a greater extent the proud club he is representing, has now become the butt of many an embarrassing meme.
Of course it doesn’t really matter if he is pleasant and polite in interviews, or whether his behaviour during press conferences (storming out for no reason and unjustifiably demanding apologies from the media instead of discussing football) is atrocious. All that matters is that he backs up this arrogance with wins. Only the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson were able to get away with such behaviour, yet van Gaal, as much as his sterling reputation would suggest otherwise, cannot.
Even after the spirited performance against Chelsea he was at it again, complaining of media “lies” regarding him leaving United rather than addressing our current form. Given that he is indeed still the manager of this club, the reports of his imminent sacking are perhaps entirely untrue, however maybe he should focus more on the facts that matter, i.e. the ones that are justifying such rumours.
Since United’s last win (away to Watford in November) we have been knocked out of the Champions League and convincingly displaced from the top four, dropping to sixth, behind by Tottenham and Crystal Palace in the league. Another defeat at the hands of Swansea in the first game of 2016, with wins for West Ham, Watford and Stoke City, will see us drop to ninth in the table. Given the lack of imagination in front of goal that has dominated our performances throughout 2015/16, it is exactly what van Gaal’s United deserve.
Judging by some of the videos/images from the terraces after Monday’s game it seems as though the fans are still divided in their feelings towards van Gaal. One video showed the die-hards in the Stretford End chanting “Louis van Gaal’s red army” at the end of the game in support of the manager, while some fans were spotted (bizarrely) holding ‘Jose Mourinho’ scarves during the game (above).
Personally, I’m in disagreement with both sides. Van Gaal has never had an army playing for him at United, merely a collection of players he has tried and failed to forge a unique style from, while Mourinho is a man accused of committing virtually identical crimes to van Gaal in alienating his players and losing the dressing room, while showing zero integrity and responsibility, at Chelsea. Is this really the man we expect to outperform van Gaal, restoring a sense of pride and passion in our performances?
One thing is for certain though: van Gaal has utterly ignored the simple principles laid down by Ferguson and Busby before him; never stop advancing and always fight to the end. Instead he favours his own failing ‘philosophy’, and therefore must leave.
His slow, academic style does not suite the culture of the club, the players he has inherited, nor the expensive stars he has recruited. Therefore his unwillingness to consign to the ‘United way’, while thinking his egotistical approach would turn United into winners, has instead turned us into a laughing stock.
From his unimaginative anti-United style of football played on a weekly basis, the undignified manner he carries himself in the press room, and the hundreds of millions he has spent – Van Gaal has never been, and will never be, a United man. And with every game and every disappointing, unfamiliar performance that goes by he continues to poison the proud, great legacy that has been built buy the proud, great leaders of the past.
This manager has clearly run out of ideas, losing control of his players while rapidly tarnishing his and the club’s reputation by failing to record a win in 27 out of 53 games in 2015. For someone so obsessed with doing things his own way, van Gaal needs to finally show some integrity, admitting that his philosophy does not work when it involves rejecting the United way, and resign before things go from bad to worse.