The critics have been sharpening their knives for a while now and have been increasingly vocal in the past few weeks. The damning accusation of being worse off than last season has been leveled at Van Gaal and his men. Tom Chambers though believes that such criticism is unwarranted and has his say on why he thinks Van Gaal is sure to deliver success.
Over the past week, in the aftermath of United’s derby defeat at the hands of City, criticism of Louis van Gaal’s early tenure at Manchester United has become more visible than at any previous time. The general consensus from these critics is that United are not improving and are no better off than they were under the disastrous and chaotic leadership of David Moyes. Many have pointed to the fact United had more points and were higher up the table at the same stage last season as justification that Van Gaal is perhaps not the elite “trainer coach” he portrays himself as. This is frankly absurd. It doesn’t take a genius to see that United are in better hands under their current boss than they ever were under Moyes.
As I outlined in my previous piece, there are a multitude of reasons for United’s struggles so far this season. Whilst Moyes himself was new to the job and had his own injury problems to contend with, he didn’t have the same vast number of changes in playing personnel. These changes combined with an incredible number of injuries, even by recent United standards, has made consistency almost impossible to come by.
Whilst critics continue to throw out statistics to support their claims, almost any United fan will tell you they are less concerned than they were twelve months ago. A lowering of expectations after a brutally sobering season last time around has helped Van Gaal stave off discontent but perhaps the most important factor in this regard is the difference in the CVs and mentality of the two men. Moyes fits the definition of an underdog immaculately, with his reactive tactics based around “keeping things tight” and negating the threat of the opposition and he also has no silverware to point to as proof of his methods working at the highest level. Van Gaal, on the other hand, has a different mentality, based on dominating all aspects of a game and thus forcing the opposing team to alter their own tactics whilst not ignoring the threats they pose.
The two managers could not be more different, this is made obvious in their interaction with the media. When in charge, Moyes stated “The job was always going to be hard. Is it harder than I thought it would be? Yeah, I would say so.” He also described City as “the sort of standard and level we need to try and aspire to get ourselves to”. These are the words of a man who was clearly out of his depth and who came up short when it comes to the vocabulary expected of a “big time manager”. In contrast Van Gaal has made bold assertions such as “nobody is walking back into my team, believe me” whilst he described himself as “not pleased” despite taking a hard earned point from league leaders Chelsea. Van Gaal exudes confidence, authority and ambition in all of his press conferences, giving fans a reason to believe in him. The fact he can also point to title triumphs in every country he has managed, with other footballing juggernauts such as Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Ajax despite a similarly uneasy start in Germany, is further evidence that eventually he will bring success back to United.
United have been frustratingly inconsistent in the early part of this season. However, any fan will tell you that despite their problems they have offered more entertainment and optimism than they did under Moyes. The players seem to be slowly getting to grips with the new philosophy with Rooney stating after the game against City “We’re working on different things, which a lot of us haven’t been used to, we’re certainly heading in the right direction”. There is a clear playing style developing which was never the case with Moyes, as Ferdinand alluded to in his recent autobiography, stating; “Moyes’ innovations mostly led to negativity and confusion…sometimes our main tactic was the long, high, diagonal cross… other times Moyes wanted lots of passing.” This messy approach meant progress was almost impossible. Van Gaal has a clear way of working and importantly, has shown he can transmit his ideas to top-level players successfully.
United’s last two big games have also offered hope for the future. The corresponding fixtures last season against Chelsea at Old Trafford and City at the Etihad equated to the same number of points, the difference in performance was highly encouraging. This season, against Chelsea, this season’s standout team by some distance, United had marginally more of the ball and created the better chances in a close game, showing battling determination till the very end and thus being rewarded with a late goal. In addition to this, despite a defeat to City in the derby, United offered a completely different performance to the limp 4-1 humiliation last season. Had Chris Smalling not been so foolish in getting sent off on in the first half, they would likely have got something from the game. In the event of his dismissal and an injury to Marcos Rojo, United’s defence contained two 19 year olds who are new to the first team, a defensive midfielder and a winger keeping City down to just the one goal and they also created chances of their own after conceding and had City scrambling the ball clear in nervous panic.
All these factors, tied in with the fact United are no more than four points off their realistic contenders for 3rd/4th in Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham with 28 games left to play and the advantage of no European football, means fans can look forward with high hopes that Louis van Gaal can deliver on his promise of leading United out of the darkness and back into the bright lights of Champions League football this season.
Written by Tom Chambers
- The evolution of Ryan Giggs: Flying winger to Assistant Manager - March 27, 2015
- Why a 4-2-3-1 with Rooney up top could benefit Manchester United - February 23, 2015
- Weighing Louis van Gaal’s Striking Options - February 10, 2015