Looking back over the United career of Sir Alex Ferguson it’s easy to go two ways as the club currently stumble from pathetic performance to another. Some will look at Fergie as the ultimate tactical genius who masterminded countless trophies due to a superhuman insight into the machinations of football mere mortals can only dream about as they play championship manager while consuming ounce upon ounce of Salford’s finest homegrown. Others will remember the time we dismantled sides like Arsenal with the ease of a Usain Bolt sprint victory and how we did it with players barely any better than our opponents thanks to the ability of the manager to get the very, very best out of mediocrity.
Personally I’m in the latter camp, it was Sir Alex’s gift for squeezing every ounce of talent out of the only slightly talented- as well as allowing the supremely gifted to flourish- that rose him above any other manager that’s ever sat in a dug out, not his tactical mastery. Tactically if we’re completely honest, Sir Alex was patchy at times, although he ultimately got it right more than he got it wrong, but when it came to man-management, he was second to none.
Louis Van Gaal came to the club with a reputation as Sir Alex’s rightful successor after the travesty of the David Moyes comedy roadshow season. LVG had won titles wherever he went, knew how to handle egos, nurture young talent and successfully adapt players to positions that were alien to them. So far not only has Van Gaal done none of the above he’s actually failed miserably at all of it as his man-management of players seems to have completely deserted him to the point of being utterly dreadful.
Here’s ten players Van Gaal has got it wrong with this season.
1. Ander Herrera. You buy a player who can make things happen in midfield. Said player does just that so you obviously drop him to the point of absurdity. Van Gaal’s misuse of Herrera is arguably the most baffling of all this season as the Spaniard has been dropped, used for less than half an hour, dropped brought in, then dropped again all the while doing exactly what he was brought in to do, creating chances and goals. I feel like starting a “Why, why, why Herrera!” chant next time he’s dropped- which will probably be Sunday as Van Gaal’s bonkers.
2. Juan Mata. While we’re on the subject of creative Spanish talents, heard the one about the player who’s arguably the most gifted at the club and has played less than 90 minutes since the middle of January? Mata’s mint. Fellaini ain’t, yet for some reason Marouane seems to be preferred to a player who can unlock the meanest defence and is often a joy to watch. Using a clumsy beanpole like Fellaini in place of a maestro like Mata is the mark of a Rampton’s patient- not someone who should be in charge of Manchester United football club.
3. Wayne Rooney. Hang on, he made him skipper, said he was undroppable and lauded over him almost as soon as he arrived at Old Trafford. How can anyone accuse Van Gaal of misusing Rooney? Simple. Rooney is to midfield what Andy Cole is to interviews. What makes Van Gaal’s use of Rooney in a central role even more baffling is the fact he was often the deeper of the three midfielders being used, something which led to his least effective spell since he signed for the club over a decade ago. Bizarre.
4. Paddy McNair. Throwing a 19 year-old unknown defender into the first-team is admirable despite the fact many were baffled as to why the seemingly more ready Tom Thorpe wasn’t given the nod. McNair silenced any doubters with an assured display against West Ham in his debut and Van Gaal reaped the praise that comes with having the bottle and the ingenuity to unearth a gem no one saw coming. The problem is the manager’s subsequent treatment of his young defender has been so poor as to become counterproductive. It’s a small wonder McNair’s mum hasn’t knocked on the manager’s door demanding to know why her son’s been subjected to such mistreatment. Young players need handling with care and having their confidence caressed like a loved ones bosom. They don’t need subbing in the first half away at Southampton because they’re having a shocker. Yes, McNair was poor but could United not have carried him for another six minutes until half time? Could we not have adapted a system just to get him to half time and not embarrass the poor lad? Van Gaal even had the audacity to claim subbing the teenager after 39 minutes was done as he had ‘no confidence.’ Subbing a player with no confidence in the first half, makes about as much sense as Martin Keown’s ability to get paid money for talking. McNair has since been moved to right back, brought in, took out and shaken all about, he’s signed a new deal but there’s a feeling he may be a success in spite of rather than because of the manager.
5. Angel Di Maria. Rooney’s a striker, Di Maria’s a midfielder. It’s not difficult. It’s devastatingly simple. So why couldn’t one of the most experience manager’s on the planet understand that? Di Maria’s use as a second striker was so frustrating to watch you can only imagine how the Argentinean felt. Why buy a £59 million player and use him in a position he’s neither suited for or can perform in is yet another piece in the jigsaw of lunacy that makes up Van Gaal’s thinking at times.
6. Rafael. If you think Antonio Valencia is a better right back than Rafael you’re either out of your head on crack or the manager of Manchester United. Why Rafael is rotting away in the reserves while Valencia hemorrhages us goals is beyond me. The Brazilian who was good enough at the beginning of the season and put in some stellar displays particularly against West Ham, QPR and Everton now cannot get near the side, strange and costly.
7. James Wilson. How many times this season have United been crying out for some pace up front, someone who can get in behind the opponent’s defence? As soon as Danny Welbeck was sold that should’ve paved the way for Wilson to be given more chances and be the real plan B option for the Reds. Instead the youngster has barely seen any action over the past few months as United’s plan B has become hoof the ball to the Belgian bloke with the big afro. Wilson could’ve injected some excitement into the United side at a time when it’s being crying out for it, but no let’s use the rapid youngster, let’s hit and hope to the tree. Brilliant…
8. Luke Shaw. When that teenager gets back from the world cup, we’ll tell the press how unfit he is. Then we’ll bring him into the side and drop him continuously. That’s what we’ll do…
9. Tyler Blackett. 52 league minutes since November for a youngster who was one of our better players at the beginning of the season, is another example of ‘what Louis giveth he also taketh away’ regardless of whether it would actually benefit both the player and the team to actually see him feature now and again at least. Blackett is now being considered something of the forgotten man which is a shame for a homegrown Mancunian talent who Van Gaal actually deserved praise for giving a new lease of life. Another example of the manager’s inability to not only nurture youngsters but give them any semblance of belief and confidence.
10. Radamel Falcao. Lololololololol. I thought was a chant but it was actually Van Gaal laughing as he misused one of the most feared strikers on the planet. Here’s an idea- give him a run in the side that’s longer than four starts to show us what he’s capable of – or at the very least bring him off the bench when the Reds need a goal, instead of wasting substitutions on players more suited to protecting leads than creating them. It’s baffling why Van Gaal allowed Welbeck and Chicharito to leave, doesn’t trust Wilson and still refuses to give the Colombian a real chance. He’s here till the Summer, why not give him until then to prove he’s worth the £280,000 a week United are currently paying him.
That’s my take on how LVG’s got it wrong with ten of his squad, am I being overly harsh or do you agree? Feel free to comment, suggest and criticise below: