I have been asked to write an article about any positive influence had on Manchester United since the appointment of Louis van Gaal as manager.
Never in my life have I been asked to look for the proverbial ‘needle in a haystack’, but my first impression is that it would have been a more preferable assignment, possibly even easier than the one at hand.
However, when I sat down to give it a little thought, it turns out that there has been quite a lot of positive input from van Gaal over his time at Old Trafford.
So here goes. Positive vibes immediately started coming out of Old Trafford when van Gaal was employed by the club to replace David Moyes.
Moyes, as everybody knows, suffered an embarrassing time at Old Trafford proving to be totally out of his depth when dealing with players who had won much more than he had and totally inept when removing all of Sir Alex Ferguson’s experienced backroom staff. He came in needing to earn the respect of the players and he failed to do so. Still, he was given a chance which, unfortunately he couldn’t take and paid the price with a relatively short tenure.
Enter King Louis. La Liga winner, Bundesliga winner and Champion’s League winner. He had won more than most of the players he was now overseeing and he had their immediate respect. His press conferences spoke of wanting to win titles and European trophies rather than the insipid interviews given by Moyes who wanted United to, “aspire to be as good as City” and once stated that, “Liverpool are favourites today”, before a game at Old Trafford.
David Moyes was also not given a blank cheque for transfers. He bought Marouane Fellaini who, you get the impression, would not have been on any wish list of Louis van Gaal. His sights would be set somewhat higher.
There is some confusion as to who bought Juan Mata. Apparently, the deal was done by Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill although there is no doubt he was a player wanted by Moyes and, therefore, probably requested by him.
Despite quite frugal spending by comparison with van Gaal, Moyes’ record is not that dissimilar to the Dutchman’s. Again, though, the general impression is that, had Moyes been given the amount of time van Gaal has had to date, he could have ruined the club.
The van Gaal era began quite well and, as we all know, his first season in charge ended with fourth place in the Premier League and qualification for the Champion’s League. So he certainly achieved what he was asked at the outset.
Where he seems to be a work-in-progress is against the lesser teams. Knocked out of the Capital One Cup by MK Dons last season and Middlesbrough this season. Struggling to get past Sheffield United in the FA Cup and losing home games to Southampton and Norwich in the Premier League. These are certainly areas for improvement. Yet the same players, more or less, were capable of beating Everton at Goodison Park and Liverpool at Anfield! So the work needs to be done either on the player’s mentality for the lesser games, or the tactics.
If van Gaal does see out his contract with United it may not be such a dire experience as people think. Logically, the longer he is there the better he should be. He will know the players that much better and will know the Premier League and his opponents that much better. He may well be given more money in the Summer to bring in more players, there are certainly positions needing strengthening.
At his other clubs he has had to undergo periods where the fans have been dissatisfied and he has usually come through it with a trophy. We shall just have to wait and see.
My feeling is that he will resign at the end of this season and, because of this, he will give everything to try and win either the FA Cup, or the Europa League, or both. If he succeeds then United fans may well still have something to cheer come the end of the season.
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