After another disappointing game for Manchester United and coach Louis Van Gaal, the credibility of the team has dwindled again. As the club fell out of the championship race long ago, the FA Cup was an opportunity for Van Gaal to save his severely damaged reputation among United fans. Nevertheless, as Liverpool pose an imminent threat for United's Europa League goals, West Ham, on the other hand, seem threatening for the replay in the FA Cup. Thus, given the Manchester derby is also in sight, Van Gaal's fate in the city may be determined in a week.
I expected more from the Dutchman when he was appointed in the job, I thought he could bring a systematic approach to the club after David Moyes's chaotic nonsense. However, the only thing Van Gaal picked up from neo-total football was the importance of ball-possession, but no further reform to Moyes' game than that. His predecessor's game was extremely simple and chaotic at the same time, when the ball was intercepted, it was sent to wings directly and wingers crossed the ball without a second thought to whomever was in the penalty box. I could not imagine how Van Gaal could invest in such strategy, but his game play and press conference after West Ham game explains a lot:
"I think Fellaini played a good match again. He performed well in our game plan. That was disappointing but that was the only moment I was disappointed because they were supporting our side. Maybe they [fans] have another opinion to me. I have to say I have seen a great match between two good sides. The difference was that we have played a match on Thursday and they have a whole week of preparation and the first 15 minutes West Ham were the better team and created a few chances."
I still cannot grasp how a pro-license coach can claim that he not only had a plan but also a good plan whereas the only trick was crossing the ball to the tallest guy. In many United games I encountered the same strategy, the team has the ball and seems to be building a game while Old Trafford falls asleep, yet, the result is always the same, some dull tactic. Hence, I think Van Gaal has trapped himself in one of the worst positions for a coach, like Arsene Wenger does sometimes. He grasps some truths about modern football, but cannot conduct his team according to it and starts the game modern and finishes it primitively. Seeing as Arsenal's case and a determinant strategy is always better than a hybrid one, if Van Gaal had chosen a side without hesitation United would still be in the championship race.
But it seems that the cat is already out of the bag and Van Gaal has lost control of his team and its supporters. Jose Mourinho, despite using a backwards strategy, can bring glory days to United for the short term next season. Nevertheless, given Mourinho's strategy can easily be countered, they should not have lost the race for Pep Guardiola to Manchester City. If the club wants a new phase after Sir Alex Ferguson, they should find someone who understands modern football and has the courage to surpass Fergusons' systematic legacy.
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