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.

Chelsea take the concept of ‘crisis club’ to an all-new low

A quarter of the way into this Premier League season, Chelsea have unwillingly advanced the concept of the “bad patch”.

From their lofty perch of the last decade, they have witnessed plenty of minor wobbles and stumbles. It became more than a mere “blip” — universally understood to be an anomaly of form that last no longer than three or four games — when Crystal Palace snatched three points from Stamford Bridge at the end of August. After the blip comes the indeterminate period of the “crisis” — a term that has long lost its significance in the Premier League era — but crises are rarely terminal, and a corner is usually turned.

So how can we describe Chelsea’s dismal 2015/16?

From the platform of a comprehensive (if not hugely memorable) title-winning year, they have delivered the capitulation to end all capitulations. Having redefined the art of winning in his first spell as manager, Jose Mourinho has now overseen a painful exhibition in how to lose football matches. To round off an autumn of discontent, Stoke City delivered what any self-respecting run of bad form should have: a morale-sapping midweek League Cup exit away from home. On penalties with Eden Hazard, one of the stars of last season who, according to the latest transfer buzz, is linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge, missing the spot kick.

As the blips of previous seasons had already suggested, Chelsea lose games like nobody else. They do not go quietly into the night. Manchester United’s dreadful season under David Moyes was characterised by meek, unimaginative surrender to lesser sides. Liverpool’s spectacular title-race derailing in 2014 was a gift to the cackling neutral, but it didn’t keep giving. Chelsea’s unfolding nightmare is on another level entirely. Rather than regaining their focus like they would in the recent past, their defeats this season have been scenes of total panic; chain reactions of fouls, yellow cards and horrified protests leaving them in a daze, on the ropes to be finished off.

Like quicksand, the more Chelsea scrap to escape it, the deeper they seem to get.

The numbers — five defeats in 10 Premier League games, conceding at a rate of almost two goals a match — can only say so much about their start. This is the most stunning collapse by a defending champion not just in terms of points and defeats, but in its chaotic manner and sensational lack of grace. Chelsea have long been a tight ball of aggression and frustration, often to their advantage, but it always ran the risk of unravelling beyond just a run of two or three untidy games.

The loss at West Ham and, in particular, Nemanja Matic’s second yellow card summed it all up. An unrivalled physical presence suddenly finding itself crumbling under pressure, unable to fathom how this could possibly have happened, and summoning only furious clumsiness in response. Then, in a fog of frustration and gleeful schadenfreude, succeeding only in making things worse. Upton Park roared with each yellow card that followed from Jon Moss’s pocket, saving another hearty honk as assistant coach Silvino Louro was sent to the stands.

Speculative comment on Mourinho’s state of mind and the whereabouts of the dressing room aside, his team have been struck down by an unprecedented number of players losing their form at the same time. In a subversive season where Jamie Vardy can muster 10 goals in as many games to generate surreal talk of an approach from Real Madrid, Chelsea’s stellar attacking threat has amounted to a couple of Diego Costa strikes and Willian’s set-piece deliveries. Eden Hazard has looked lost in the maelstrom.

Regardless of the endgame to this decline, how and when the manager makes his exit, and which brave soul comes in to turn it around, Chelsea’s season is likely to become the new benchmark for elite underperformance. “Doing a Chelsea” could potentially emulate “Doing a Leeds” (which itself warrants a 1500-word Wikipedia article) in becoming a universal phrase for falling emphatically short of expectations.

In the meantime, the language of footballing form — from the “blip” to the “crisis” — just doesn’t have the vocabulary to cover Chelsea’s perfect storm.

Ferguson reveals reasons for keeping ‘amazing’ Cantona after kung-fu kick

The former Manchester United star was suspended for eight months for kicking a supporter, with his former manager admitting he felt duty-bound to keep him

Ferguson reveals reasons for keeping 'amazing' Cantona after kung-fu kick

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed the reasons behind his decision to keep Eric Cantona at Manchester United after his infamous kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace supporter in 1995.

Cantona was banned for eight months after the incident, which led to widespread calls for Ferguson to sell him.

The long-serving United boss decided to keep him at the club, however, admitting that he felt compelled to fight his player’s corner.

“Jesus, you know, he was done and it was a problem for the club because it got such headlines,” Ferguson told the BBC. “It was front page and we decided to have a meeting at Alderley Edge the next night.

“On the way I get a phone call from Richard Greenbury, who was chairman of Marks and Spencer at the time, Richard, a big United fan.

“He says ‘well, don’t let Cantona go. He’ll give you great moments of joy.’ I said ‘I know that.’ But you know it was the mood of the board, so I had to fight the case, look we must keep him, we can’t let him go, we can’t give in to the mob and we decided to suspend him for four months and the FA at the time were happy with it, but somehow they added to it.

United signed Cantona for around £1.2 million from Leeds in 1992, with the France international playing a key role in the Red Devils’ title wins in 1993 and 1994.

And Ferguson insists he had no idea that Cantona would ever react to a fan’s provocation in such a dramatic manner.

“He’d never given us any indication that explosion was there. But I decided to approach it this way: I would speak to him every day, I would talk to him about football all the time and he loved it.

“That’s why the other players said he was my prodigal son. But I think he needed different attention, you needed different ways of dealing with him, he was a different guy from everyone else. He’s an amazing human being.

“No. There was something in me that said I need to stand by him because the world is after him. And it was a bit like, no one’s there to help him and I says well it’ll have to be me because I’m his manager.”

Ibrahimovic: Ronaldo took the credit for Rooney’s work

The 34-year-old says the striker’s efforts were key to the success of the Real Madrid star during his time at Manchester United

Ibrahimovic: Ronaldo took the credit for Rooney's work

Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes Cristiano Ronaldo took the credit for Wayne Rooney’s unselfish work during their time together at Manchester United.

The pair helped fire United to Champions League glory in 2008, with Ronaldo winning the Ballon d’Or the following January for his efforts the previous season.

However, Ibrahimovic feels Ronaldo would not have been able to shine if it wasn’t for Rooney’s hard work.

“These great players, they have their moments over one to three years. But to continue over five years, for 10 years the way Wayne Rooney has done is not easy. It’s pressure everyday playing for a big team,” Ibrahimovic told the BBC.

“He runs a lot, he fights a lot, he sacrifices a lot,.

“When he played with Cristiano Ronaldo all the work was done by Rooney, but he didn’t get the credit because Ronaldo was scoring all of the goals.

“I’d prefer to have him in my team than play against him. I’ve not been lucky enough to play with him but I enjoy seeing him on the pitch – if I cannot play with him, I will watch him.”

Culled from Goal.com

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.”