"This was instead a kind of alternate red and white world, Manchester United glimpsed through a psychedelic prism. Weird, late, jumbled up. Expensively acquired, dotted with youth, charged with pace. But somehow also lost in their own ponderous moments, like a collection of dying flies trying to batter their way out of a fluorescent tube." wrote Guardian writer Barney Ronay after Manchester United's humiliating defeat at White Hart Lane against Tottenham. The pointless strategy employed by United throughout the game disappointed many fans, but no one described mighty Manchester United as " a collection of dying flies trying to batter their way out of a fluorescent tube" for a long time until this Sunday.
However, the reality is as ugly as it seems, Louis Van Gaal's team has no serious strategy to score and the only card the Dutch coach has in his pocket is their energetic press, usually employed for a short period of time. Indeed, Tottenham Hotspur were a bit shaken in the first half, given United spent their all energy preventing Spurs from consolidating around their penalty box. Nevertheless, as soon as United's energy went wasted over an unproductive period, the second half was a feast for Tottenham, who had enough time and space to build their game and strangle an exhausted United.
The reason why Van Gaal's team cannot direct this energy into a productive process is simple, their coach has no plans to utilize the youth of his team. Even an amateur coach can prevent Tottenham's offensive waves by making his team run as twice as hard as their opponents, but a professional should have known that his team will feel the fatigue after some time and will be defenseless against a fresh, organized opponent. In every economic system, this kind of a waste material would seem pointless and absurd. Added to that, it is shameful for most United fans to watch their team desperately trying to stop their opponents.
But this result could have been changed so easily by Van Gaal, if he had simply followed how Claudio Ranieri utilizes the energy of his team. This mixed strategy of United, meaningless circulation of the ball at the back and quick crosses from the wings, makes the team unable to produce anything threatening. Either you make passes at the back patiently to organize a settled, dominant game to sneak behind the opponent's defense with at least four or five men, or, as traditional counter-attacking does, you can just skip the preparation part and focus on catching the opponent unguarded. But, if you try to mix everything, and confuse your team with a contradictory set of tactics, it is normal that a team like Tottenham, who are confident and determined about their game, can crush you in mere 10 minutes.
At this point, United and Van Gaal must understand that there is no point in trying to find a place for Sir Alex Ferguson's strategies in neo-total football. They can choose to play a quasi-tiki taka game with a new coach or change Van Gaal, it will take a long time, but results will be much more beneficial for United and English football. On the other hand, they can opt for Jose Mourinho and join the counter-revolution, the side fueled by fear. To be honest, I think a Mourinho era is waiting for United next season. At least he can bring success in a short period of time.
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