What does a new manager, a famed philosophy and £250 million worth of new signings get you? Well, in Manchester United’s case not a great deal. Louis Van Gaal has been at Old Trafford for a year now, and despite all that was promised no real progress has been made. In fact, after 50 games in charge the Dutchman has almost precisely the same record as his shamed predecessor, David Moyes.
Van Gaal achieved the minimum requirement (qualifying for the Champions League) in his first season at United, but is now tasked with leading the club on a title assault this term. However, the Old Trafford side are actually in worse shape now than they were upon his appointment – and what’s more, Van Gaal is to blame for pretty much every problem Man Utd have right now.
The only thing more inconsistent than the Dutchman’s results over the past year has been his public persona. For instance, take his baffling stance on the consistency of Man Utd’s midfield – an area which in isolation has had £140 million spunked on it over the past two seasons.
Van Gaal’s Di-vision
When asked for his opinion on where his side still needed to improve, Van Gaal insisted that United needed more “balance” and “creativity,” adding that the Old Trafford didn’t possess the “vision” he desired. On the basis of their opening few games of the season, the Dutchman had a point – although such deficiencies were of his own making.
While Man Utd indeed lacked invention over the opening few weeks of the season, that was down to Van Gaal’s baffling team selection. What did he expect from his midfield pairing of Michael Carrick and Morgan Schneiderlin? All the while he had Ander Herrera on the bench and Juan Mata isolated out on the right wing.
Van Gaal is also to blame for the deterioration in David De Gea’s relationship with the club. Of course, the collapse of the Spaniard’s move to Real Madrid was not Van Gaal’s fault (although nobody seems sure whose fault it truly was) but the aggravation of the goalkeeping predicament United now face in its wake certainly is.
By demoting De Gea to the reserves Van Gaal manufactured a rift between himself and his best player where there needn’t be one. Now he must repair a relationship which has been critically – maybe even fatally – damaged over the summer. It’s a similar tale for Victor Valdes – the Champions League and World Cup winner signed as De Gea’s prospective replacement in January. However, he too finds himself ostracised at Old Trafford.
Man Utd have two world-class keepers among their ranks, meanwhile Sergio Romero (not even good enough to make it into the Sampdoria first-team last season) is allowing points to literally slip through his hands. Chalk that one up to Van Gaal’s poor judgement, too.
Louis-ing Their Appeal
It would seem that Van Gaal’s conduct is simultaneously having an impact on Man Utd’s transfer market activity. He may deny as much, but it’s perfectly plausible that Pedro was indeed put off a move to Old Trafford by tales of poor man-management from friend Valdes and compatriots De Gea and Herrera. Van Gaal was hired to give United the kind of allure Moyes lacked, but he might have succeeded in making the club an undesirable destination for Europe’s best.
United’s obvious deficiencies up front are of Van Gaal’s making too. His decision to offload Robin Van Persie for a pittance (£4.6 million to be precise) with no replacement lined up was strange to begin with, and was only accentuated by his stance on Javier Hernandez’s future at Old Trafford. With just days left of the transfer window, the Dutchman insisted that Chicharito would not be sold – only for the striker to be offloaded to Bayer Leverkusen on European deadline day. This summer Man Utd got rid of more strikers than Maggie Thatcher, and it’s difficult to explain why.
Likewise is the case with Van Gaal’s decision to send Adnan Januzaj on a season-long loan to Borussia Dortmund. The Belgian youngster started three of United’s opening four games of the season, and yet was shipped out hastily with – once again – no replacement lined up.
The Dutchman lists some of Europe’s biggest and most illustrious clubs on his resume, but since leading Ajax to the European Cup in 1995 (an undeniably incredible feat) what has he actually achieved? In fact, since 1999 he has won just two league titles – and one of those was in Holland.
Is it possible that he was never truly qualified for the United job? He might pose as some footballing megamind, but beyond his public posturing there lies scant substance. Van Gaal was hired on the belief that he’d be the guy to fix Man Utd. So far though, he’s only broken them further.