Louis Van Gaal, it would appear, is smarter than the average bear. The last two weeks have exposed a depth of intelligence that we did not imagine him to possess, despite his highly successful career to date. You see, it turns out that our Louis is a dedicated reader of Newton’s Laws of motion and relativity and that, almost certainly, the shambles at the Emirates was part of cunning plan to finally draw a magnificent performance out of United at Goodison Park. He’d obviously done his homework and discovered that results in the last decade at the ground of a team whose fans hate us far far more than we hate them (which is sweet) have been utterly wretched. Many had forgotten what it felt like to score there, let alone win.
And so to Newton, the famous physicist and mathematician, and his explanation for the forces in the universe. He claimed that ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’. Louis, the smart cookie, clearly concluded that we’ve beaten Arsenal enough over recent years to be able to handle a defeat, even the total roasting handed out two week ago. The ageing midfield selection, high press and suicidal defending was a deliberate strategy, the level of incompetence on display all part of the plan. Embarrassment in North London was engineered and tolerated for the greater good. Every major managerial decision was wrong. In hindsight we should have known that the game had been thrown and that the miserable fortnight we had endured ever since had been part of a plan.
So to Goodison, where even the most optimistic United fan was struggling to make a case for victory. The last time United had truly ‘turned up’ there was 2007, and that was only for twenty minutes and was aided by a dodgy transfer agreement, a rookie keeper and Agent Pip Neville. There were a number of key decisions which needed to be made. Daley Blind, the cultured but laborious weedling, would surely have been violated in unspeakable ways by the pacy and powerful Romelu Lukaku. Louis did not want to have to witness such a sight and replaced him with the fit again Phil Jones. Enough of that ‘left foot/right foot’ defending bulls*t. It was time to fight buffalo with buffalo.
In midfield similarly wise decisions were made. Out went the increasingly tired and old legs of Sir Michael of the Carrick and in came the combative Morgan Schneiderlin. With the recalled Ander Herrera they formed a midfield three, with the Spaniard as its most offensive weapon. Wide left, Memphis Depay was dropped for being ineffective and surly, at last, and Anthony Martial was moved there from his usual centre forward position. Cunning old Louis knew that his new star man would keep Seamus Coleman pinned back and blunt one of Everton’s most effective lines of supply.
I’m assuming that there was logic in these calls, as there had been none in those made at Arsenal, but it’s just as likely that Louis threw names on pieces of paper into a hat and let Newton’s laws do the rest. He knew, after all, that what happened in the sunny south-east would be repelled on a darker, cooler day in the north-west. Everything that went wrong would now go right, as a Sky-driven Sunday kick off was followed by an old-skool 3pm on a Saturday fixture, the footballing forces would push in the opposite direction and right United’s balance. And so it did. United took firm control of the game almost from the first whistle, dominating possession and territory and retaining the ball with a composure which seemed lost a fortnight before. Like that distressing ‘Super-Sunday’ the game was over before it began, but this time in favour of the followers of the good side of the force. Schneiderlin’s performance and sharp finish were just rewards for the disgustingly handsome Frenchman, who had perhaps struggled to attain his best performance levels since his move to Old Trafford. Then Herrera (regularly dropped for playing well and scoring goals) met a delicious Marcos Rojo (regularly dropped for being stupid) cross to head adroitly past Tim Howard to settle the match.
That’s the first time I’ve ever used the word ‘adroitly’, but I’ve always wanted to. Writer’s porn.
In the second half Everton threatened briefly and David De Gea had to make another of his telescopic-legged saves from the Everton buffalo, whilst the United one managed to spread his own nose all over his face for the umpteenth time. When buffalo fights buffalo (ably assisted by the ever improving Mike Smalling) there will always be bloodshed. Wayne Rooney, as sloppy as usual, was handed so many clear-cut opportunities that he simply couldn’t miss them all and he duly scored his first away goal since the Black Death swept through England. He must have been super pleased to net at his boyhood club again, although he tried very very hard not to show it. The goal would make him the second highest Premier League goal scorer of all-time, which given my age p*sses me off greatly, because THERE WAS F*CKING FOOTBALL BEFORE 1992 YOU KNOW. I’m pleased for Wayne, for achieving this completely artificial milestone.
The game drifted away, for once the third goal had been scored Newton’s work had been done and a 3-0 reverse had been followed by an equal and opposite 3-0 reverse. The result was most certainly Van Gaal’s biggest away win in a statistical sense and arguably his team’s finest in a performance sense. Everton are a fine side and only City had totally outplayed them this season.
Pre-match a Twitter discussion concluded with one fan opining, as a rationale for an away win, that United could win because they have “got better footballers, manager and are ‘due’ a result there”. And of course all three observations were correct at the time. But so often in recent years that has been the case at Goodison Park (bar when Moyes reversed the ‘better manager’ dynamic in one his final games at United’s helm) and yet it has neither resulted in acceptable performances or results.
Fortunately Louis knew his physics and we can now forgive that aberration at Arsenal. Newton has set up the first Derby of the season perfectly, with United sat two points behind their city rivals. Without Aguero and Silva the task may have become easier, although that is a relative term given their embarrassment of attacking riches and mullering of Bournemouth on Saturday. But first comes a vital match in Moscow against CSKA, where United last won when Antonio Valencia was a good footballer. For both games we’ll have to do without science, unless Louis can find another theory to exploit.