Three Takes on the Louis Van Gaal Era at United

Three Takes on the Louis Van Gaal Era at United
Feb 23, 2016

Manchester United

Manchester United has endured some tough times since the conclusion of the Sir Alex Ferguson Era. Following his departure, the club first turned to David Moyes as Ferguson’s successor. In fact, he was recommended to take the role by SAF himself.

In the end, we all know how that worked out. Moyes was sacked after ten months, posting a 27-9-15 record and guiding the club to a 7th place finish in the Premier League. He certainly did not do the worst job possible, but his defensive style did not fit the free-flowing, attacking style of play United is known for.

Fast forward to May 19th, 2014. Louis Van Gaal has just been appointed as United’s manager, and during that summer he led the Netherlands to a third place finish in the World Cup. With the Netherlands, LVG used a 3-5-2 formation, that featured a lot of runs by the wingbacks down the left and right flanks. This style seemed to perfectly fit United’s attacking desires, and his appointment was highly anticipated.

In his first season at United, Van Gaal satisfied most fan’s demands by making some high profile signings in Angel Di Maria, and Falcao. Those players ultimately did not meet expectations and both were moved after a season which saw United finish 4th in the Premier League, qualifying for the Champion’s League after a year’s absence from the competition. This was enough to allow Van Gaal to keep his job as manager, but with his rigid style of play with a lot of aimless possession, he was already causing some fans frustration.

Now in the 2015-2016 campaign, his coaching style has turned off most fans completely. He does not get up and motivate players from the touchline. Instead he chooses to sit up in the coach’s box and scribble away on his notepad. Assistant manager and former United legend Ryan Giggs looks absolutely bored to tears sitting next to him. He also insists on playing possession football, and seems to value possession over shots on goal or chances created.

This has incensed the United faithful, and chants of “attack! attack!'” are heard at almost every game. It seems like the more irritated the fans get, the more stubborn Van Gaal is in using his possession tactics.

United have had some bright spots under the Van Gaal, a 4-2 victory over City last year being one of my favorite moments, along with consistent success against Liverpool, but it hasn’t been enough. The rumors have been constant, and it seems that Jose Mourinho will succeed LVG come May. In light of this, I wanted to share three thoughts I had on his reign at United.

He kept United’s tradition of giving youth a chance.

Say what you want about LVG, but you can’t say he did not give youth products a chance. He has given debuts to some notable players including Jesse Lingard, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Andreas Pereira, Guillermo Varela and Paddy McNair.

Pereira has shown glimpses of world class potential, hitting a beautifully struck free kick in a 3-0 win over Ipswich Town in the Capital One Cup. For whatever reason, Van Gaal has only used him sparingly since then.

Of the debutants, Lingard has had the most production for the first team. He has scored five goals in all competitions. He also brings some personality to the team with his “dab celebration”.

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson has shown that he is also very capable of playing consistently in the first team. He whips in some exceptional crosses and has very effective dribbling ability and composure under pressure. Check out his sublime assist to set up Jesse Lingard’s goal vs. Stoke.

He made United’s defense stable once again.

Although it helps to have world class keeper David De Gea in the squad, Van Gaal has truly revamped United’s once porous defense. United has 1 clean sheets in 15-16, tied for first overall in the league, and they already have one more than they had all last season. On top of this, they have only allowed 24 goals scored, third best in the league, to go along with a .89 goals against average.

How much of this improvement is due to United’s high possession and lack of offensive chances taken? Probably a great deal, but you can’t ignore the improvement.

He really hasn’t done much better than David Moyes.

The worst part about LVG’s tenure is that Ed Woodward and the United hierarchy insist on keeping him in charge, even after going 8 games without a win at one point. If you look at the table below you’ll come to find that this season is not any better than when Moyes was in charge.

In the month of December, United only managed to collect two points, their lowest point tally in one month since the Premier League started. Pitiful when you think of what is expected from a club like United. This is one of many reason why fans are calling for his dismissal.

So although United have been somewhat stabilized under Louis Van Gaal, and the future looks bright with the likes of Anthony Martial, Memphis and Lingard being brought in, it’s safe to say the LVG Era is at its end.

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