It was a horrible Christmas period for the Red Devils as Louis Van Gaal’s job was under immense scrutiny after not winning one game in the month of December.
It looked as though the pressure was getting to Van Gaal, as he stormed out of a press conference after just four minutes and 58 seconds; and with Jose Mourinho waiting in the wings it seemed that it was only a matter of time that the former Chelsea manager would take the reins at United.
Since that troublesome December, LVG got a priceless win against Swansea which still keeps them in the hunt for Champions League football. Oh and on the subject of Champions League football – United were dumped out of the Champions League by Wolfsburg in December as well – hence the criticism from the fans and media.
United will now play in the Europa League once again, as their ill-fated elite European journey ended almost as quickly as it begun.
So far United’s season hasn’t really gone to plan; there was talk of them being potential title winners; albeit a few murmurs and whispers, but I think now the title could be just beyond reach; but with the win against Swansea the top four is still very much attainable.
To help look at United’s stop-start season I have drafted in some help in the form of Andy Hyslop who is the Editor of Manchester United fan site ‘Sir Alex Ferguson Way’ to share some of his thoughts on United’s season to date.
Boring! Boring! United – surely not?
Now when you associate with United; many will say they are a great attacking side, with plenty of world class players that get the fans off their seats; people might have said that five years ago. But now people are saying the opposite – United are boring, United have lost their attacking instinct and so on.
Some of that might be true and if you go by their last nine games in all of them except one, the half-time score has been 0-0, the exception was Norwich, when LVG’s side were in fact 1-0 down.
With Sir Alex Ferguson in charge I’m pretty sure the majority of half-time scores were not 0-0; his sides were known for that gung-ho approach; a sort we’ll score more than you type of philosophy.
But Andy disagrees, saying:
“I wouldn’t say United are boring, it’s just a different way of playing. It is a possession based game that relies on having special talent in the attacking areas. Until United are able to add that to the current team they will be perceived as boring my many.”
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, United still have ‘special’ attacking talent in their ranks; is Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, and Memphis not all great attacking players?
But still United and its fans are not the seeing the best of them, is it a case of LVG not getting the best out of them?
“What you have also realise is that United had many great players under Ferguson who were able to play the full throttle attacking football. Players like Scholes and Giggs, are two of the best players of their generation and extremely difficult to replace,” said Andy.
Andy might be right; Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes were able to play a certain way; and if you look at the list of attacking players United possess out of the four of them, you could probably say only two of them could play that ‘full-throttle’ football.
Martial and Memphis would be your guys; as they are young and athletic enough to sustain that sort of approach.
And with Rooney, you look at the England captain and begin to wonder if he is slowly down (his goal ratio this season, certainly reflects that), there has been so much talk of Rooney eventually playing in midfield, and in the next year or two we could see that happening.
And moving onto to Mata, he is certainly not the player that would suit that ‘up and at ‘em’ style; the Spaniard is too cultured on the ball; and is best served being utilised another way.
But are their similarities to the way in which Ferguson use to set up his side and the 64-year-old Dutchman?
Andy seems to think so, saying: “Under Van Gaal, like under Ferguson he is building the team from the back and Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger are key to this. With these two in the team, United are more solid and will be able to pick up results whilst not at their best. Add to the attacking talent and we may see United become more attacking.”
I’m still unconvinced that United can become that exciting side with LVG in charge, and I reckon that if you done a survey and asked 100 people I wouldn’t be surprised if half of them would tell you the same thing.
If you enjoyed part one stick around for part two which will be online in the coming days, and if you want to read more of Andy work, click the links below: