“You wonder whether he has one or two screws loose.” – Johan Cruyff on Louis van Gaal.
When LVG arrived at Manchester United in the summer of 2014 we all breathed a huge sigh of relief. The Dutchman was a world known name and he was brave enough to take on a job which had made his predecessor visibly ill. Many other managers would not have touched the United job with a barge pole, but Louis van Gaal had the confidence to take it on and he genuinely believed he could return the club to the success they had under Sir Alex Ferguson.
His predecessor David Moyes had left the club in disgrace after less than a season in charge, having been humiliated on every social network, news site and television station in England on his way out. It was a strange decision to appoint Moyes to the position in the first place; Manchester United are the biggest footballing franchise in the world and this was a man who wan unfamiliar with trophies. It was apparent from the word go that the Scot didn’t have the experience to take the reigns at United, and by the end of it all, the hearsay, punditry and praise he had accumulated before signing a contract with the Red Devils had been thrown in the bin with the previous days tabloids.
Dithering Dave, as he came to be known, had missed out on some key signings in the summer of 2013, which had meant United didn’t really invest in the squad other than signing Maruone Fellani. Before they knew it Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City had all strengthened. United had dithered too long and before they knew it they were almost a season behind where they needed to be.
This chain of events triggered the arrival of van Gaal and suddenly there looked to be a light at the end of the tunnel for United fans.
If you had to use one word to describe the Dutch coach’s footballing philosophy it would be ‘fundamentalist’. The manager has never claimed his philosophy to be anything more or anything less. Its open to interpretation, but if he thinks he’s right he won’t budge, and in a season of highs and lows for United we have seen plenty of these occasions. First of all Wayne Rooney, Rooney is a player that despite being loved and idolised by many United fans would not have been my own personal choice for captain. Yes he’s passionate and hardworking, but he’s lost a yard of pace in his latter years and it’s debatable whether he’s the best number ten in the side. In the past he has even has an ongoing transfer dispute with the club which occurred not once but twice and that’s still fresh in my memory. Despite signing a 300k a week contract, I would not have envisaged the LVG and Rooney would get on, but in fact van Gaal got on so well with Rooney that he made him his captain.
Van Gaal has utilised Rooney all over the pitch for United this seasons, and has recently dropped him into midfield, a role many of us thought the Englishman would find himself in eventually. Of late Rooney has been less than convincing in midfield with many supporters calling for him to start upfront. But van Gaal has been true to his word and stuck by the tactics behind Rooney’s positioning.
As Frank de Boer described LVG “He’s open to other ideas, but they must understand he won’t budge.”
Van Gaal is an unwavering dominant force in the dressing room, along with in front of the media, something David Moyes found incredibly difficult. In response to Sam Allardyce’s recent comments about United’s “route one football” the Dutchman produced a doccier of facts to prove otherwise. These may be in the process of being mocked in the press but the truth is that van Gaal believes in his style of play and he has the numbers to prove it. Perhaps the most confusing fact of van Gaal’s reign is the decision not to play Ander Herrera, but with the match fixing allegations you just wonder if there is something happening behind the Sean’s which has meant the young Spaniard has been left out for unknown reasons. You just don’t know.
I know that at times LVG can be frustrating, but on occasions United have played some fantastic attacking football. Some would argue with the money we have spent we should be playing the best football in the league, but maybe there is actually something in this new system which could see us dominate for years to come. It’s a case of bedding in a side with very little experience.
“My jaw dropped when I saw Van Gaal’s Ajax play,” Pep Guardiola says in his autobiography.
“They did everything a football team should do perfectly in my eyes.”
“Approaching football Utopia”
If I’m honest I may not like the way United are playing right now, but van Gaal’s record shows he knows a thing or two about football and our position at the end of the season is the main thing. The truth is van Gaal is not trying to be popular with the fans he just sees things differently to us. As he says his aim is to make top four and he should be judged at the end of the season. Then United can continue rebuilding and restructuring that’s what United do they go again. You may not agree with me, but I hope you appreciate my honesty. It might even be be the first honest thing you’ve read about Van Gaal all week.
Remember, One mans madman is another mans martyr, so don’t pass judgement, well not just yet anyway.