Has Louis van Gaal made a difference to Manchester United, it’s hard to see the improvements…
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal claimed yesterday that his team were the best in the Premier League… no really, he did. United have been a long way from their fluent best this season, but the Dutchman remains convinced that the Red Devils are destined for success.
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Let’s start with Van Gaal’s latest comments. The Old Trafford boss, who was quoted by the Daily Mirror, said: “As you know, when you see the score of the last 19 or 20 matches we are the best team in the league.”
Wrong. Over the last 19 games United have picked up 39 points, two less than local rivals Manchester City and four less than Premier League leaders Chelsea. While they’ve avoided losing many games, they still lack the fear-factor of any Sir Alex Ferguson side.
Van Gaal added: “Now I believe that every player knows the philosophy of me and my staff. Everyone wants to follow that philosophy and you can see that in the team spirit of the team which is unbelievable.”
Wrong. This is a United team whose formation has undoubtedly been changed more times than any other side. Does Van Gaal know his best team? He’s spent the last two months playing Wayne Rooney, a player he believes to be his best striker, in central midfield.
In all fairness, there is at least some sort of realism in Van Gaal’s mind. He told reporters: “Mostly I have told them (the players) after the matches that we can play better, but I have also said it was already 70 minutes good, this match, or 45 or 60, but we have to do it 90 minutes.
“I don’t believe we have been able to do it for 90 minutes, so I think we have a long way to go. You don’t have to exaggerate that we are playing well. But, very important is that we continue to win and that we don’t lose so much anymore and that the results are more stable.”
Let’s be fair here, he has a point. Results are more important than anything else for United this season, as they seek a return to stability. They are third in the Premier League and look well set for a return to Champions League football.
However, let’s turn that around.
This is a United manager that spent £150m in the summer on the likes of Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw – how many of those players have been a success?
This is a United team without any distractions from European football, a United team who were eliminated in humiliating style by League One opposition in the Capital One Cup, but still, a United team who have failed to mount any sort of significant title challenge – 12 points adrift of leaders Chelsea.
Van Gaal mocked one journalist this week, who revealed that a poll in the Manchester Evening News claim that 81 per cent of fans believe results are more important than style this season.
“Over 80 per cent? Unbelievable! In spite of your criticism, fantastic! Thank you, I am so honest now,” he responded. “I can repeat it, more than 80 per cent.”
Every manager should stand by their team, but Van Gaal’s stubborn unwillingness to accept any sort of criticism, his enduring habit to berate referees and moodily complain about every possible disadvantage his team have suffered, are not helping his cause.
He needs to be realistic – United are rebuilding. They’re not the best team in Europe, they’re not the best team in England and they’re not the best team in Manchester. They are improving, no doubt about that, but the toughest challenges are still to come.