Boring Van Gaal is sucking the life out of Man United

After crashing out of the Champions League the finger of blame is largely being pointed at the Dutchman who is steadfastly refusing to accept criticism of his playing style

Boring Van Gaal is sucking the life out of Man United

If you find it a surprise that Manchester United have been knocked out of the Champions League, you clearly haven’t been watching their games this season.

Having spent a gargantuan £283 million in the transfer market, Louis van Gaal succeeded only in turning United into one of the dullest, rigid, lifeless teams in the competition. By the time they arrived in Wolfsburg needing a victory to be sure of progression, it was clear they were swimming against the tide.

Somehow, Van Gaal has sucked the life out of one of the world’s greatest clubs. Fans no longer look forward to arriving at Old Trafford in the same way they used to.

Players don’t seem to have the same appetite and belief as their predecessors. And when visiting teams begin to batten down the hatches with 20 minutes to go they do so safe in the knowledge that the worst is over. Fergie time and the avalanche of late, crucial goals is now just a distant memory.

After a September during which the Red Devils scored 15 goals in six games, the humiliating 3-0 defeat to Arsenal was a real watershed moment for United. From there Van Gaal looked to tighten up first and worry about attacking later. Rather than accept that selecting two immobile thirty-somethings in Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield was a grave error, he decided that his side needed to become tougher to break down at the expense of greater expression in the final third.

There is a monotony to United which reflects Van Gaal’s approach. The only thing that changes in training is the time. When they arrive at Carrington morning, noon or night, the players are put through exactly the same exercises week after week. After going through their warm-ups on a match day it is the same training drills which are performed by the starting XI whether the opposition is Cambridge or CSKA Moscow.

There has been many an occasion when Van Gaal has waxed lyrical about the wonderful football displayed by his Ajax sides of the mid-1990s, but lately he has turned to more recent examples of his work when suggesting that Man Utd fans should fans should have known what they were getting when he was appointed,

“When they don’t like the style of play for Manchester United, everybody knows in advance that all the teams of LVG plays like that. In Barcelona, or Bayern Munich or AZ we have played like that,” said Van Gaal in defence of his tactics after the 0-0 draw with West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday.

But while he believes that United fans should have foreseen the current situation, the same charge can be levelled at the 64-year-old. This is a club which has been built on playing football the right way. Even in the days in between Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, the likes of Tommy Docherty and Ron Atkinson had United playing an attractive brand of football, while Dave Sexton – the manager who bridged the gap between the reigns of the two – was criticised for a more functional, conservative approach.

Van Gaal didn’t walk into this job with his eyes closed. He knew the demands associated with Manchester United. He had seen what happened to David Moyes, yet even in the Scot’s short spell in charge there was a more willing approach to attacking than Van Gaal has employed.

What’s more, Van Gaal cannot claim that he has not been given the tools with which to build a fast-flowing, attractive lineup. A British record fee of £59.7m was splashed out on Angel di Maria, and while he had not been the manager’s choice, he was the kind of player most bosses would love to work with. The Dutchman was forever switching Di Maria around and eventually helped to make the Argentine attacker’s position in the squad untenable.

Yet even since he has been given carte blanche in the market he has been unable to get the best out of explosive talents. Memphis Depay was his marquee signing last summer for a fee potentially rising to £31m, yet the Netherlands World Cup star has so far failed to show anything like his best. Anthony Martial, meanwhile, has been pushed from pillar to post since his deadline-day transfer, and the lack of appropriate service has seen him struggle to find the net.

Similarly, Ander Herrera has cut a frustrated figure as a result of his lack of playing time while Juan Mata has looked a shadow of himself when shoved out to the right wing for game after game. It was no coincidence that Martial’s best opening in weeks came on Tuesday in Wolfsburg from a killer ball by Mata, playing in the No.10 spot vacated by the injured Wayne Rooney. If Van Gaal had had a fully-fit squad available to him, there is little doubt Mata would have been used as a right winger, if at all.

And that brings us to another point. United’s lack of strength in depth left them incredibly exposed as they kicked off against Wolfsburg, and two further injuries only made matters worse as the match went on.

Van Gaal insisted earlier this season that he was able to pack off a number of former first-team squad members in the summer because of the versatility of a string of current players. Yet such a viewpoint is always dangerous since it only takes a few absences to leave the squad looking stretched.

The likes of Guillermo Varela, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Axel Tuanzebe and Marcus Rashford may well become excellent senior players in time, but the truth is that right now they are getting a look-in with the first team more out of necessity than out of choice. If United had even half the depth of cover of previous seasons to call upon then such youngsters would be getting an outing when the time was right, not when the situation demanded it.

Louis van Gaal is not the only man to blame for United’s current malaise, and indeed he has steered his side into a comfortable top-four position from which they are well placed to challenge for the Premier League title this season.

However, the Champions League failure is a huge step backwards for the club, and the Dutchman has to take a large share of the responsibility. Having a belief and sticking to it can be a very positive quality, but the belligerence and stubbornness with which Van Gaal stands by his failing ‘philosophy’ is threatening to undermine his attempts to make a success of his Manchester United reign.

Louis van Gaal promises Manchester United players more ‘boring’ meetings

Louis van Gaal has told his Manchester United players to prepare themselves for more “boring” meetings because he thinks they are working.

Van Gaal was in just as defiant a mood on Saturday night as he was on the eve of his team’s morale-boosting 3-1 win over Liverpool.

The day after breaking into song mid-press conference to underline how he still had the support of his players and the fans, Van Gaal again poked fun at the stories of apparent unrest in the Old Trafford dressing room.

The United manager was at pains to point out that his team would not have taken the lead had they not planned and practiced the free-kick drill that led to Daley Blind’s opener.

“I have to say the meetings about the set plays and the sessions about the set plays have paid off,” he said. “So I am very happy because the first goal was the deciding goal.

“We have a lot of meetings, you know,” Van Gaal added with a grin.

David De Gea had made a successful return to action, Anthony Martial scored a stunning goal on his debut and United recorded a big win over their most bitter rivals.

The day after breaking into song mid-press conference to underline how he still had the support of his players and the fan

s, Van Gaal again poked fun at the stories of apparent unrest in the Old Trafford dressing room.

The day after breaking into song mid-press conference to underline how he still had the support of his players and the fans, Van Gaal again poked fun at the stories of apparent unrest in the Old Trafford dressing room.

Manchester United fans must accept change in approach – Rio Ferdinand

Former Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand says everything at the club is now “totally different” and urged supporters to accept the change in approach under Louis van Gaal.

United sit second in the Premier League table after Saturday’s 3-1 win over Liverpool, but they have struggled to find any rhythm in their play.

Stories also emerged during the week, confirmed by Van Gaal, that skipper Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick had approached the manager earlier in the season with concerns over squad morale.

Ferdinand says the days of Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Matt Busby are long gone, and believes the fans will still be perfectly happy if trophies are won with Van Gaal’s more possession-based football.

“The philosophy is completely different,” the former England defender, who believes Man City have the best chance of success in the Premier League, said.

“Manchester United supporters now have to go away and re-educate themselves on how to watch Manchester United. Don’t go there expecting to see free-flowing, attacking, gung-ho football.

“It’s methodical, side to side, wait for an opportunity to come. It’s a different type of football, very methodical, clear-cut pattern of the way he wants the team to play and it’s totally different.

“I’m not saying that is the wrong way — it is the way he chooses to play and it is not the way Manchester United are used to playing.

Anthony Martial, signed for a minimum fee of £36 million, highlights Louis van Gaal’s big spending.

“If it brings success, Manchester United fans will be delighted, I will be delighted. It is just a different way of playing football.

“People who are old enough to remember those times [Busby, etc], they want fairytale and they’re going to reminisce about old times and want to see what they’re used to. The younger generation, they’re not so attached to that and they can move on, but they’re going to want to move on to a style that they like.”

Ferdinand also revealed he and former defensive partner Nemanja Vidic had discussed the recent transfer business at United — with Van Gaal having spent over a quarter of a billion pounds on new recruits — and also questioned why a new centre-back was not signed over the summer.

“I just think, with Daley Blind playing centre-half every week, you think you’ve spent all that money, where is the centre-half?” he added.

Manchester United will beat Liverpool, but won’t win Premier League – LVG

Louis van Gaal has assured Manchester United fans that his side will defeat Liverpool on Saturday, but backed off picking the Old Trafford club to be crowned Premier League champs this season.

United slumped to a surprising 2-1 loss to Swansea two weekends ago, however the Dutch boss promised a repeat was not in the cards against arch-rivals Liverpool at the weekend.

“I am sorry, the defeat was my fault. Don’t worry, we will win on Saturday,” Van Gaal said in an interview with BBC.

Van Gaal’s club beat Liverpool 3-0 at Old Trafford and 2-1 at Anfield last year. And while a victory over the Reds would be a seen as a positive step for the club, the former Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax manager believes his squad is a year away from being considered true Premier League contenders.

“No, maybe third or second place is realistic but I expect us to go for it next season,” Van Gaal said of his team’s 2014-15 chances, before hailing United fans for their steadfast support.

“At Barcelona when the team is losing fans wave their white hankies, Munich fans start whistling and at Ajax the fans call for the previous manager.

“Manchester United fans get behind their manager, they get behind their team. That is why United fans are the best in the world.”

Memphis lights up Old Trafford when Man Utd & Van Gaal need him most

The Dutchman evoked memories of Wayne Rooney’s Champions League debut with a stunning double against Club Brugge on a night when the hosts were forced to come from behind

Memphis lights up Old Trafford when Man Utd & Van Gaal need him most

Manchester United were not expecting to have to come from behind in the first leg of their Champions League qualifying play-off against Club Brugge but that is the position in which they found themselves with barely eight minutes on the clock.

Michael Carrick’s inadvertent boot past Sergio Romero stunned Old Trafford, with memories of ordinary performances here under David Moyes and last season under Louis van Gaal flashing before the eyes of the stunned United fans in attendance.

The goal, which came courtesy of a Victor Vazquez free-kick further emboldened the Belgian club’s set of loyal supporters, who were comfortably outsinging their English counterparts before most of the home contingent had even taken their seats.

“Who the f*** are Man United?” they sang in word-perfect, if salty, English and it was going to take something rather special to subdue them. “Where the f*** are Man United?”, the home fans might have wondered at that point.

Step forward Memphis Depay; made, on this evidence, to supply both goals and electricity for Manchester United for many years to come.

Club Brugge were daring to dream of something more than the hiding they expected their side to take beforehand, but then Memphis demonstrated just why Van Gaal was willing to shell out some £25 million for his signature. He had scored goals for fun the Eredivisie for champions PSV Eindhoven last season, and doing it for one of the world’s biggest clubs came perfectly naturally to him on a night they needed someone to take command.

First, a close touch took him past the attention of a Brugge defender, before a calm side-step gave him all the space he needed to slot home past Sebastian Bruzzese for his first official United goal.

Memphis took flak for his inability to find the net against Aston Villa on Friday night from a relatively straightforward opportunity but dispelled any lingering doubts that Ed Woodward had been sold a pup not long after.

PSV fans might be well used to the sight of Memphis picking the ball up on the left side of the attack and finding the opposite corner with a shot. How sweet for United fans, though, that they were treated to one of his trademark breathtaking strikes so soon into his United career.

They had not seen a Champions League debut as good around these parts since Wayne Rooney hit a hat-trick against Fenerbahce in 2004. Now Memphis is the man leading his captain by example. Still, Rooney cannot get into the flow of games this season.

There was one moment in the second half when it all came together for the England man. His expert touch-off into the path of Depay deserved the finishing touch. As it was, the Netherlands international snatched at it and missed the chance to emulate Rooney with a debut hat-trick in this competition. No matter, there will be plenty of those in the red shirt.

There were a few hairy moments for United to endure, not least when a foul was called on Romero with the goal at the mercy of Obbi Oulare in the second half, but Memphis’s cross, nodded in by Marouane Fellaini deep into injury time, might now have sunk Club’s rebellion for good.

Let’s call this a coming out party for Memphis. Van Gaal cleared the striking decks at Old Trafford this summer with the forcible removals of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao. A lot will depend on those broad shoulders of Memphis should Rooney’s toils continue.

He did all which was asked of him and more in his first big test. Here is a self-confident, self-confessed “dream chaser” who thinks it an inevitability that he has ended up at a club as important as this one. For a club seeking rediscover their place at the top of the natural order, such swagger is certainly welcome.

Henry baffled by Van Gaal’s use of Rooney & Van Persie

The former Arsenal striker says West Bromwich Albion, who pulled off a shock win at Old Trafford, would have been happy to see the strike duo playing in midfield

Henry baffled by Van Gaal's use of Rooney & Van Persie

Thierry Henry has criticised Louis van Gaal‘s tactics after Manchester United suffered their third straight Premier League defeat, going down 1-0 at home to West Brom on Saturday.

The hosts struggled to break down a disciplined Baggies side, despite boasting nearly 80 per cent possession, with Chris Brunt’s deflected free kick on 63 minutes proving decisive.

Robin van Persie returned to the starting line-up for the first time since February, but missed a second-half penalty, and saw a late chance superbly saved by Boaz Myhill, before dropping into midfield alongside Wayne Rooney late on.

Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria were both introduced as substitutes with Marouane Fellaini pushed furthest forwards as United sought an equaliser but Henry feels Van Gaal must take some of the blame for the club’s latest loss.

“If you play and you need to score a goal at Old Trafford and you’re losing against West Brom. If I’m playing for West Brom and I see Rooney in midfield, Van Persie in midfield… I’m happy,” he told Sky Sports.

“You’re not scared. I thought at a certain moment that he was going to change that and put Robin higher up the field and maybe Rooney too, guys that can score in some key moment. But they stayed in midfield.”

United are still on course to finish in the top four as they sit four points ahead of Liverpool with three games left to play but Dwight Yorke has warned they must spend big to improve their squad this summer.

“How much does Van Gaal need to spend in the summer? A few million that’s for sure,” he told Sky Sports. “Can you put a price tag on how much they’re going to spend to really make the team better?

“We’ve seen them spend £150 million (€200m), has the team improved? Slightly. I would think he definitely needs to bring in two or three players. I’m sure he knows the type of players he needs.”

The best in the Premier League? Van Gaal’s Manchester United boast backfires

The Red Devils were beaten 2-1 by Swansea on Saturday after a dismal display and face falling out of the top four once the weekend’s fixtures are completed

The best in the Premier League? Van Gaal’s Manchester United boast backfires

If Louis Van Gaal wasn’t ‘cracking up’ when he produced his long ball dossier, he must have been when he claimed on Friday that Manchester United have been the best team in the country over the last 20 matches.

Swansea made a mockery of that boast on Saturday afternoon as they completed the double over United for the first time in their history, taking advantage of yet another insipid performance by Van Gaal’s men.

United’s display again suggested that they have made no improvement under Van Gaal since they were beaten by Swansea at Old Trafford on the first day of the season back in August.
There has been little progress even since the departure of David Moyes. All this despite spending £150 million on a host of stellar signings – stars who were supposed to guarantee their return to the Champions League.

After this result, though, United will drop out of the top four if Southampton beat Liverpool at St Mary’s on Sunday and are facing a huge battle to return to Europe’s elite competition.

When league leaders Chelsea travelled to the Liberty Stadium in January, they tore apart the Welsh club in a thumping 5-0 victory. That is what the best in the Premier League looks like. Not the dreary sterile performance again produced by United on Saturday as they ended the game with 65 per cent possession but no points.

Despite controlling most of the ball, the visitors barely created any chances of note and registered just three shots on target in the whole match, including Ander Herrera’s opener. It was a lovely goal, the type of football United supporters want to see as Wayne Rooney and Angel Di Maria combined superbly before the Spaniard drilled in a perfect low finish.

But that was as good as it got, the only moment of real quality in a drab performance during which Van Gaal’s side always looked vulnerable at the back.

The sheer size of Swansea striker Bafetimbi Gomis terrified the United defence. The Frenchman could have scored twice in the first 10 minutes as he was gifted free headers in the penalty area from corners. So it was no surprise on the half-hour mark when Ki Sung-Yueng was allowed to stroll into the United penalty area completely unmarked and flick in Jonjo Shelvey’s cross with his right boot.

Then, for the winner in the 73rd minute, the United back four stood off and allowed Shelvey to fire at goal from 25 yards, with the ball finding the net via a fortuitous deflection of Gomis.

Van Gaal cannot blame bad luck. He will know that United have escaped enough times this season with undeserved points and it can’t always go their way.

Again on Saturday, there was none of the intensity and movement that United were so used to – and spoiled by – in those halcyon days under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Van Gaal’s philosophy so far appears to be nothing more than to control the game at a slow tempo and hope that, at some point, the quality of their forwards will make the difference in the final third.

Even one of those men, Radamel Falcao, was left on the bench for the full 90 minutes in Swansea as the likes of Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young were brought on instead.

As United desperately, predictably, smashed long balls up to Marouane Fellaini in the final moments, Swansea were well prepared as they denied the visitors any time or space around the edge of the penalty area.

No chances arrived, just as they didn’t throughout the second-half as Van Gaal’s brave boast emphatically backfired.