Quick, clinical, solid. These are three words anyone would have used to describe Manchester United in their glory years under Sir Alex Ferguson. Since the Scotsman’s retirement, United have been the complete opposite.
David Moyes brought forward a team that was far from innovative, they were slow and short of ideas. A seventh place finish in the league saw Moyes dethroned and meant the club’s new manager had an awful lot of work to do to bring United back where they belonged. Louis van Gaal seemed to be that man. Renowned for his brand of ‘Total Football’ he employed at the likes of Barcelona and Ajax, the Dutchman was many peoples first choice for the United job.
Almost eight months into his tenure as manager, Van Gaal still seems slightly short of ideas and unsure of how he wants the team to play. More than 50 injuries over the course of the season have definitely impacted his ability to figure out his best XI but even with his full quota of players, Van Gaal doesn’t seem to know what to do with them.
Constant changes in formation, insipid performances and a struggle to score goals has United fans questioning their manager for the first time since his arrival. A 0-0 draw away to League Two side Cambridge United confirmed certain views that Van Gaal has United moving backwards.
Much has been made about the lack of quality in the Reds defence but it is at the other end of the pitch where they are also having problems. Despite the likes of Rooney, Van Persie, Falcao and Di Maria all getting back to full fitness, there is a genuine struggle for goals amongst them. Six goals in the last six games is not a statistic that players or fans will be happy with, especially considering they failed to score altogether in two of these games. Away to QPR, it was a change in formation that brought the breakthrough for United which makes Van Gaal’s reluctance to change even more puzzling.
Can Van Gaal’s stubbornness be what is holding United back? He seems too focused on ensuring the team have possession of the football and are protecting their back three that they are neglecting their duties going forward. There is no shortage of individual attacking quality in the United squad, which points towards Van Gaal and his philosophy being the problem.
United supporters have been starved of attacking, exciting football for another season so far. The problem seems obvious, yet nothing is being done about it. If Van Gaal does not feel the need to change, United may be looking at yet another year outside the top four and without Champions League football.