Louis van Gaal came out fighting after being questioned about reports Manchester United could bring in José Mourinho as manager. He was furious about the questions related to Mourinho and at one point he exploded at a journalist and said, "You are getting the sack tomorrow. What is your name? Then I can announce the name also. [You can] look at your wife, or maybe you have children, or a nephew or something like that." This tension and anxiety made claims about Mourinho more palpable and explained why Van Gaal took a hard turn from his usual strategy in recent games. The Chelsea game, on the other hand, was kind of an exhibition of all these issues.
Firstly, the game was between Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson, as Hiddink strictly followed his predecessor's counter-attacking strategy and more surprisingly Van Gaal turned to a classic Ferguson game. As Guardian writer Michael Cox pointed out, the increased width of the game and inconceivable crosses to Marouane Fellaini resembled the Scottish coach's traditional game, Cox wrote: "Throughout their most notable periods of success under both Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, United generally played with great width on both flanks, and based their play around quick diagonal passes out wide and plenty of crosses. Many have said Van Gaal's possession-based approach doesn't fit with United's historic style of play, but more performances in this manner, and that criticism becomes less valid."
Cox justifies Van Gaal's decision in the following sentences by emphasizing improved individual performances and states that the only thing needed was a target man in the penalty box. Nevertheless, the Guardian writer misses two crucial points that made United's game almost futile against Chelsea, while the Blues left almost two-thirds of the field to Van Gaal's team. First, individual performances may seem improved, but that is the outcome of letting players improvise things on the field. Before turning to the old ways, Van Gaal at least tried to play a different game, rather than just sending out a bunch of disorganized but talented players. On Sunday, however, he sacrificed his controlled and relatively dominant game for a chaotic and unpredictable game.
Secondly, there was a target man, Marouane Fellaini, and it was a very simple trick they tried to use to overcome the strict Chelsea defense. Given Chelsea gave enough time and space to United to prepare throughout the game, watching Daley Blind making blind crosses to hopeless the Fellaini among Kurt Zouma and John Terry was painful. Aside from the momentary individual gems, there was no other plan to talk about how Van Gaal planned to score.
On the other hand, seeing as Mourinho has become a serious candidate to fill Sir Alex's gap on the bench, I want to ask all United fans to carefully re-watch the game. If you compare Chelsea's strategy with the beginning of the season, you will see very little has changed since Guus Hiddink took charge. Apparently, this is still Mourinho's team and that team was not able to produce anything noteworthy until the last 15 minutes of the game. A dull 4-2-4 in offence and 6-4-0 in offence left no space and time for Chelsea to organize a sophisticated game from the back and the only wildcard in Hiddink's hand was the connection between Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa.
Now, is this how United fans think the days of glory will return to Manchester? While Manchester City and Arsenal will play a modern game that is mathematical superiority, will United be the scavenger who looks for what was left from the real players? I think that neither the Glazer family, nor the United fans would like to see that picture. Thus, pressing Van Gaal to a play more modernized neo-total game would be more beneficial and it would put United back at the top of the table where they belong.
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