20 Dec 2015

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.

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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.

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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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7 reader comments

  1. Keith White says:

    Whether LVG should go now or not; I’m abivalent. But then I was one of the few United fans thinking Moyes should have been given more time. But one thing I am certain of is that Mourinho would be a disaster for United.

    Ok, he generally wins trophies quickly, but he never stays long, spends lots of money, has never built or rebuilt a team anywhere, doesn’t bring young players through or care about the youth teams, and as his tenure at Chelsea this time round shows can destroy the spirit and culture at a club on the altar of his ego.

    And as for his sexist treatment of Eva Caniero; widely regarded as the event that turned the team and club against him…

    Sir Alex treated everyone who worked for United with respect and learnt everyone’s name. With Mourinho if you aren’t in favour it would appear you are nobody. That isn’t the United way, and the culture of the club is a major part of its history and success and must be treated with respect.

    1. Sean Walkey says:

      One of the most sensible,balanced comments I have seen about the whole affair .
      Moyes most certainly wasn’t given enough time but I am not certain he would have produced a swashbuckling team of the type Manu supporters seem to expect .

      Similarly with present incumbent,good very honest man ,wrong team. Not his fault directors should have known his philosophy. Unlike the majority of Premiership managers what he says is almost always sensible and interesting but while his style given appropriate time will win trophys they probably won’t ever win in a way the fans crave.

      I said at the time and I Zm more than ever convinced by events do far that whoever succeeds Sir Alex ‘hair dryer ‘ Ferguson inherits a poison chalice and that could be passed down the line for a decade or two

  2. baerchen says:

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I would be surprised if any club rushed into signing Mourinho. His behaviour this season, in which he has looked extremely volatile and borderline disturbed, has seen him challenging the most trivial decisions – throw-ins, time-wasting, ball-boys retrieval etc. – and he has embarked upon a war against the officials. It’s part bunker mentaility, part paranoia.
    His treatment of Dr. Carneiro was disgraceful.
    If Michael Crick’s wish is to see more flowing football at OT, I really wonder if Mourinho is the right man to bring it

  3. Jon says:

    Spot on. Judging from his comments last week and his subsequent comments, Van Gaal has demonstrably given up. He appears to have realised ‘the philosophy’ – whatever it is – simply does not work in the EPL where fast counter-attacking football is the norm and slow, ponderous sides are destined to fail. There is no Plan B as his bizarre substitutions show all too readily. What has become truly awful is how United now make everything single defence they play against look unruffled and resolutely solid. But the fact is, had we beaten Palace, Bournemouth, West Ham and Bournemouth, we’d be comfortably on top. Now that really is very annoying…

  4. JD says:

    Unfortunately it seems unlikely to happen before Christmas if at all before the end of the season.

    The fantasy candidate Pep Guardiola is unavailable until the summer and I’m not entirely convinced by the paper talk of him “preferring” United either.

    Giggs to take over until the summer seems to be a popular option but its extremely risky this time around: when he succeeded Moyes, the top four was effectively impossible whereas this time around it is still a distinct possibility. Would the owners want to take the risk? Rock and a hard place comes to mind.

    Add to that the fact that the favourite among many, Jose Mourinho, presumably has a clause included in the terms of his pay-off from Chelsea that forbids him from taking over another Premier League club until at least May (a common fixture in today’s game) and I think we’re stuck with Van Gaal for the time being.

  5. fred green says:

    dear michael ive been a united fan for more years than even you michael but i say give the man to the end of the season.Remember Fergies first few years at Old Trafford,it took time to win the premiership.With luck we should finish in the top 4 and win the FA cup that would be nice.

  6. Supun Perera says:

    Even the smaller teams are getting better day by day. The days of scoring 4 or 5 goals regularly in matches are done, at least in the English division. Most of the elite managers these days either use possession as a defensive and attacking tool like Van Gaal (Eg-Pep Guardiola) or sit deep, defend and counter attack (Eg- Mourinho,Simone). The football you crave for simply would not be effective on the long term in the world today, specially in Europe. And score 5,6?? Like I said even the promoted sides have a lot of money and this isn’t FIFA. It’s real life. Glazer’s millions? I really doubt their pumping in their own money to the club. Just for that statement I doubt you really are a United fan. Welbeck and Van Persie haven’t done any better after they left and Hernandez couldn’t break into the United or Real Madrid team. Van Gaal has done an amazing job in bringing uop the quality of the United squad. We used to have a Cleverley, Anderson and a declining Fletcher in midfield and now we have Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin and Herrera to help out Carrick. And how good has ‘Mike’ Smalling got under LVG? He has cleared the deadwood away, but the only big fault Van Gaal has done is not bringing in enough players to cover up the slots vacated by the sold players. Van Gaal doesn’t go up to the technical area and he should. He has said that he doesn’t believe he can influence the game while it’s still ongoing from the touchline. Pep Guardiola himself said something very similar although he admitted that he couldn’t stay away from going pitch side mainly due to the fact that he get’s nervous during games. But yes as a Manchester United fan I expect my manager to try and somehow get the team that extra yard forward when the going get’s tough., The current form of the team is unacceptable, but yes when the going get’s tough, as Manchester United fans I expect all of us to stand behind our manager.

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