Why it’s time for Louis Van Gaal to go
I’m sorry, but it’s time for Louis Van Gaal to quit Manchester United. He should do it now, in time for the club to get a new manager for the Christmas fixtures, otherwise I can only see yet more humiliating defeats.
I’ve been watching United home and away for 45 years now – since I was 12 – and reckon I’ve seen about two thirds of our fixtures in that time. From Busby to Van Gaal, I’ve followed the team under all nine of United’s post-war managers, and I have to conclude that Van Gaal is the worst.
United aren’t just losing games to teams like Bournemouth and Norwich, but we’ve become incredibly boring to watch. In most seasons we regularly score four goals in a game and usually reach one or two fives, and often the odd six. This season, we’ve not scored more than three in any league game, though we did manage a four in the European Cup qualifier in Bruges in August.
Van Gaal is famous for his “philosophy”, though nobody – least of all him – has yet explained to me what it is. I think it’s all Emperor’s New Clothes. There is no real philosophy.
The dominant feature of the Van Gaal United is the emphasis on possession. But possession doesn’t win matches. Against Norwich yesterday we dominated possession, but didn’t have a shot on goal for the first 60 minutes. At Crystal Palace last month, we didn’t even touch the ball in their penalty area for the first 20 minutes.
This isn’t the swashbuckling Manchester United of Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson, of Charlton, Law and Best, of Cantona, Giggs and Ronaldo. It’s deadly dull. From being the most exciting aide to watch, a team that never knew when it was defeated, we’re now one of the most tedious and unadventurous in the League. In the old days when we went behind, we always felt we’d turn it round, even from being two goals behind (or three on one famous occasion at Spurs). Now if the team is losing, the players seem to give up hope. Where Ferguson would be on the touch line angrily urging them on, Van Gaal sits placidly making notes on his clip-board. Above all, he has this amazing knack of reducing fast, exciting, entertaining players like Di Maria and Memphis to humdrum mediocrities.
If this carries on, fans will drift away (though not me). Surely United’s owners, the Glazers, must have realised what a financial disaster Van Gaal has been. Since the summer of 2014 his transfer record has been dreadful. Of the 13 players to have arrived at Old Trafford in his time, I’d class only three as successes – Herrera (whom Van Gaal rarely plays), Shaw (out for the rest if the season with a broken leg), and the young French forward Martial. Interestingly, two of those three – Herrera and Shaw – were actually lined up to join United by the previous regime, under David Moyes. His net outlay has been a staggering £250 million, most of it wasted.
I would dearly love more new players to join in the January transfer window – a couple of strikers, a left-back, and a central defender – but I fear Van Gaal would be wasting yet more of the Glazers’ millions. He seems to have lost the knack he clearly once had, to inspire, and excite, and bring out the best in his men.
It should be hard to argue with a man who has won the European Cup once, and won seven league championships with four different clubs in three top football countries. And only last year Van Gaal he took a far from brilliant Holland team to the World Cup semi-finals. Louis Van Gaal knows a thousand times more about football than I ever will, and yet some of his mistakes seem so elementary.
You can’t run a squad with just seven established defenders. It’s in the nature of their job that defenders get injured or suspended, which is what’s happened this season. So midfielders have had to play out of position, and inexperienced youngsters haven’t been able to cope either.
Equally, how can you hope to run a squad with just two established strikers – Rooney and Martial? Why was Javier Hernandez – who yesterday got his 19th goal in 22 games for Bayer Leverkusen – ever allowed to go? Or Welbeck? Or Van Persie? Or James Wilson (now on loan to Brighton)?
If United had kept winning, the fans might have turned a blind eye to the dreadful style of play for a while longer. And the annoying thing is that the League is there for the taking this season, if only we knew how to score and win.
Things can only get worse. Please go now, Louis and give someone else a chance.
And I don’t know a United fan who thinks he should stay.
Ideally, it will be Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola. But frankly almost anyone right now would do a better job than Louis Van Gaal.
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