A difficult week for Man United fans. The end of the transfer window is nigh and after being linked with a number of genuine talent United still lack the genuine quality of Chelsea, Manchester City and in some respects Arsenal.
4th has to be the realistic target this season with the hope of good cup runs as well based on the current playing personnel. Whilst Utd fans are fingering Ed Woodward as the villain of the piece, the reality may be that its Van Gaal who is biding his time on the transfer front. Ed Woodward seems to have his finger on the trigger, hence the reason for his big claims. Van Gaal has said numerous times that he won’t be rushed, and it sounds as though Ed is doing the pushing to save face for the disaster of last summer. Sure its hard, when you see the likes of Arsenal, City and Chelsea signing genuine star quality whilst United have stayed true to the Fergie mantra of signing potential and making superstars. In the time of high finance it can be tough to see our competitors excelling in the transfer market to buy quick success, why can’t we do that a friend asked me recently?
The truth is buying talent can only guarantee success for so long, at Man United we have been very good at developing and retaining talent with the mindset looking at the long term aims, and signing the odd superstar to compliment the balance of the team. This mindset has kept United at the very top of the English football for 23 years, until last season. Van Gaal was surprised at today’s press conference to hear that United fans are getting concerned that signings are not being brought in. Whilst the likes of Mourinho and City like to buy their way to success, Van Gaal is not interested in buying his way to success, he has a philosophy for team improvement and youth, a philosophy which may take time to yield results.
Sky Sports Spanish correspondent the well respected Guillem Balague commented that the resurgence of Barcelona that started with them winning the 2006 Champions League can be traced back to the work Van Gaal did at Barcelona during his time there. Results which spectacularly bore fruit into undoubtedly one of the finest teams since United’s treble winning team in 99. He also went onto say that the recent resurgence of Bayern Munich can also be traced to the work Van Gaal did there. Reporters in Munich have also backed this up.
Before Van Gaal was hired by Bayern, the Baverian outfit had not been a force in Europe since they won the champions league in 2001. Van Gaal turned that around getting to the final in 2010 and Bayern went onto become a frightening force over the next few years getting to the final again in 2012 losing to Chelsea on pens before that all German night at Wembley. The way Bayern tore into Barcelona in the semi over 2 legs was significant, 15 months later Germany would be world champions with an influx of players from Bayern.
Van Gaal has belief in his philosophy and has the pedigree to back that up. Van Gaal will prefer to use his abilities as a coach to inspire, coach and manage Manchester United back into a functioning outfit again, and buy the players he needs when they become available when he has had the chance to properly asses his players. The thing is Van Gaal also had success whilst he laid the groundwork for the future in his previous roles, but in a league as competitive as the Premier League, it may be difficult for Van Gaal to do that, which is why 4th with current playing squad would be seen as a success to build on in future seasons.
The problem is a lot of United fans these days have only been supporting the club since the Fergie years, and have seen success after success. So its hard for this generation of United fans to accept anything less, however, for those of us that were around in the pre and early Fergie years know all too well that no team has the divine right to be successful, just ask Liverpool supporters. The main thing is we stay United, turning on the CEO and Glazer won’t help really help. The Glazers have over seen one of the most successful periods of the clubs rich history and in my opinion are easy scapegoats when things are not going well. They have been blamed for not giving the club the finances in the transfer market when it was more likely Fergies evaluation of players that put him off buying them rather than the Glazer saying no superstar classy signings. If anything big signings are very marketable and will only serve the Glazers commercials aims not detract from it.
I’m not saying I am pro Glazer because I am not. I hate the fact that the Glazers are using the money earning potential that United is to service the debts they incurred to buy the club in the first place. But, I didn’t complain when we first floated the shares on the stock market, the money was just too good to say no to and most fans were in favour of the move to go public. But this is the exact type hostile takeover that is possible when you float your shares on the stock exchange. The United fans sat silent as the club went ahead. We didn’t complain then, so do we have the right to be complaining now. At least you can’t argue with the business acumen and the phenomenal amount of money the Glazers are bringing into the club, yes they are using us to service their take over, but at least they are doing their best to increase the money earning potential of the club and are not sitting back saying thanks for the season tickets fees. Sure they have raised ticket prices, annoyingly so during austere times, but no more than any other top club. But lets get some perspective here we have only lost the first game of the season, it matters now how we respond to it.
What a difference 12 months make, this time last year United fans were all delighted after a 4-1 away win against Swansea, only to follow it up with the worst season since the early Fergie years. This year we have lost at home to Swansea, lets hope that the omens reverse for us and we follow it up with a top four finish and good cup runs. This season start is a polar opposite to last seasons, let’s hope the season will be as well, there is a certain irony to losing at home to Swansea bearing in mind last year.
Some of our best seasons have come when we start slowly. Out first title winning season started with no win in the first 3 games, losing away at Sheffield Utd 2-1 following that up with a 3-0 home defeat to Everton and a 1-1 home draw against newly promoted Ipswich. Yet we ran out league winners that year.
The historic treble winning year of 1998/99 started the season being 2-0 down at home to Leicester, finally drawing the game 2 a piece thanks to a last minute free kick from David Beckham. We followed that up with a 0-0 draw away at West Ham until we finally clicked into gear beating the then table topping Charlton 4-1 at Old Trafford. 2002/03 saw United overcome a very good Arsenal team to the title but was another slow starter. Winning only 2 of the first 5 fixtures, and let us not forget the tepid start to the 2007/08 Premier League and Champions League winning season. Drawing 0-0 at home to… wait for it…..Reading, 1-1 away to Portsmouth and a 1-0 defeat the following Sunday to Man City in their pre lottery winning days.
More recently let us not forget the team suffered early defeats to Burnley 2009/10 season second game in and of course 2012/13 saw United got mullered by Feliani in a 1-0 reverse at Goodison park. We finished the season as Champions for a record 20th time.
I want to finish this piece with an actual quote from Van Gaal in an interview he gave for the Telegraph yesterday when asked about signing new players. ” I don’t think it fair for me to come here and fire all of the players. So I give them a fair chance.”
Most of these players are serial winners and have not become bad players overnight. Yes the David Moyes debacle has seriously harmed the confidence in a number of players but I for one have the full confidence that Van Gaal will develop and return the confidence to these players. I also believe that Van Gaal has the full confidence of his own ability and philosophy. He is a clear leader and the players will follow him and want to play for him and I have no doubt he will get this United squad functional again.
Liverpool didn’t have a particularly good midfield last season at best it was ok. An aging Steven Gerard, Jordan Henderson who still looks like he runs in treacle and whilst Coutinho and Sterling are good players, they are not world class and never will be. But What Rodgers did so well last year was get his midfield functioning to the point where he even surprised himself. No doubt spurred on by the demise of United last year and for the first time in years LFC didn’t live in our shadow. Take another bow David Moyes. We finished over 20 points in front of LFC the season previous and they finished 30 in front of us this season. A 50+ point swing in 12 months is abject failure on all levels as United looked massively under prepared for many of the big games last season. Moyes decision to bring in his own people in still rankles and is the reason he doesn’t have a job at United today. I Digress.
I am pretty hopeful that some more new signings will arrive before September 1st, but as Van Gaal has said many times it will take 3 months before his work with the players begins to bear fruit with a certain level of consistency. So to all United fans I say this, let’s stay United and respect our manager. LVG will deliver, but he will need patience and the team will need our support so let us stay United and I’m sure by Christmas we will all be feeling very differently to what we have done this week. With the current injury situation at the moment I do expect a slow burner this season but I do believe LVG will make us click and when we do I think we will see something special which will set us up for the years ahead.
Eternal optimism? Possibly, but I like to think it’s more a case of putting trust in a very good manager.