Manchester United have a squad capable of winning the Premier League. That was evident at the start of the season and, for any doubters, the fact that £258 million more had been spent on improving the squad which finished fourth the season before, should have confirmed it.
So what has happened? Injuries? Every team has them and some have had more than United. It is an excuse, but not a viable one. How about tactical formations? That is always a possibility and when you had United, earlier in the season, passing the ball aimlessly to each other or out of play or to the opposition, then this side of van Gaal had to be questioned. What about team selection? This has always been my favourite. I have never understood why you would spend so much money on players yet STILL have three or four players playing out of position.
The fact that this happened was due, mainly, to unbalanced buying during the transfer window. Everybody knew what United needed. It certainly wasn’t the amount of midfielders purchased. It was a striker, a centre back and a full back, none of which were bought.
Nevertheless, van Gaal soldiered on, never choosing to explain to the fans as to why he didn’t buy what was needed. No, his arrogance meant that he didn’t have to do that. He preferred blaming the current set of players for defeats, having a go at the press when they asked him the usual stupid questions and having a go at anything or anybody who wasn’t Louis van Gaal.
For me, what has alienated van Gaal is not the performances or the league position, although much better was expected on both counts. No, it has been this attitude of nothing ever having been his fault.
Against Chelsea the players failed to reward themselves, according to him. Well, Louis, you picked the team, the tactics and then sent on the subs, the players didn’t.
Time and again I read about how a player, or the team, or a referee has been responsible for a bad result, never HIM.
Yet, funnily enough, when United win a game, it is suddenly HIS tactics, HIS team selection and philosophy that got them through.
It is these comments that have left the Old Trafford faithful very cold towards van Gaal. Of course they will put up with it when the team is winning, but only for so long. Only until they realise that, just because they are winning matches, does not mean that they are winning trophies.
Under van Gaal, United have occasionally played some very attractive football and, in fairness, should have beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. He now needs to continue this form until the end of the season and see where it leads to.
If he can pick up a trophy, whether that be the Europa League or FA Cup, then his reputation would have suffered but will remain relatively intact. In fact, winning the Europa League may now be United’s best avenue back into the Champion’s League next season and almost certainly back into the favour of many frustrated United fans.
If, however, United do not win a trophy and finish outside of the top four, then van Gaal will have taken the club backwards at a cost of £258 million. Surely even Ed Woodward cannot defend that!
At the end of the season, whatever the outcome, he needs to step aside for a new man. If he doesn’t, with Pep Guardiola at City next season, it could get embarrassing but knowing how stubborn the Dutchman is and the high regard he is held in by Ed Woodward and the Glazer family then getting a new man in could be a lot tougher than many think especially if he has won some silverware and van Gaal always said it was a project and that it would take time for him to get things right.