On 23rd Decemeber, just one day before the scheduled press-conference, the footballing media burst out with the news of Louis van Gaal being sacked. Few hours after the speculated news surfaced, it was known that he was still the manager of the Manchester club and that all is well with the club and the manager. The news was believed to be a hoax. The sudden emergence and the strength of the supposed “rumour”, however, shed an altogether different light to the matters and activities happening inside the Theatre of Dreams.
On the eve of Christmas (the very next day), Louis van Gaal presided over a usually jam-packed pre-match conference. The Boxing Day matches have been dominated by Manchester United for over a decade and the Red Devils were yet to lose a Boxing Day clash since the 2002 reverse to Middlesbrough. The routine conference would have illuminated the media with the team news and injury updates as well as the manager’s thoughts for the upcoming match. The last few weeks, however, have plummeted the reputation of Louis van Gaal in the English media and shouts for the manager’s head are slowly becoming audible in the footballing sphere, testified by the sudden outcry for the manager’s sacking by his fans and a highly strong rumour regarding the eventual.
The manager, obviously, was unimpressed. Demanding an apology from the media, he concluded the 4 minutes and 57 seconds long press conference, sarcastically wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
But as the saying goes ”There’s no smoke without fire”. Is Louis van Gaal’s iron-fist the reason why Manchester United is going though such a slump and is his imminent departure from the club the only viable option to turn things around at Manchester United?
The aforementioned incident and the subsequent reaction from the manager can only be described as the exact antithesis of Louis van Gaal’s philosophical Manchester United. Only if Manchester United had shown such aggression and vigour on the football field as their manager displayed during the press-conference, things might have been a little bit more “Christmassy” at Manchester United. United had been cautious, watchful, unimaginative and uninspired during play, to the point that they have to be wary of teams like Middlesborough and Watford and Louis van Gaal’s departure can be the only viable option to turn things around at Manchester United.
#5 Louis van Gaal’s “Philosophy” stifling Manchester United’s attacking pedigree.
The dictatorship under Louis van Gaal means that players have absolutely no freedom of play on the field. Each player is fed with some set of instructions and he has to follow that during the match or risk losing his place in the starting XI. A classic example, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata. The Spanish mid-fielder from Athletic Bilbao plays with freedom, creativity and risk whenever he steps onto the field. His presence automatically lifts the team’s performance a couple of notches above as compared to when he’s not playing. Result? He’s found warming the bench more than playing on the pitch.
Juan Mata, on the other hand, is deployed regularly at the right wing while his actual strengths points that he should be playing right behind the striker as a No. 10, where he can be exceptional as seen in Chelsea when he was playing in the hole behind the striker. He, however, follows the “philosophy” and is played on the right wing regularly and despite his earlier performances being good, his play has become rather repetitive, predictable and one-dimensional, receiving the ball on the right wing, and then cutting inside to either cross it in, play it across the centre, or pass it backwards to the right wing-back. And yet he still plays.
#4 His stubbornness to play the out-of-sorts Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney is a household name. His goal scoring exploits are well known across the world. For over 10 years he has single-handedly or as a part of a duo/trio, led Manchester United on to trophies after trophies. He’s England’s all time highest goal scorer; Manchester United’s joint 2nd highest goalscorer. And yet he has only scored 6 times this entire year.
Louis van Gaal’s decision to continue selecting an out of form Wayne Rooney over other in-form players and subsequently changing the dynamics, strategy and shape of the team according to the needs of him had since been back-firing. Ander Herrera’s repeated exclusion can be attributed to LVG’s favouritism for his team’s captain, almost to the point of being suicidal for their Premier League campaign. Wayne Rooney has lost his goal-scoring form, his first touches have been awful and his dribbling has been below par. His passing has been decent occasionally but he has frequently drifted off the game and the decision to play the captain who cannot inspire the team presently, has backfired big time on Louis van Gaal.
#3 Strange substitutions
His decision to bring on Tim Krul during the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 minutes before penalties might have been widely considered as a stroke of genius but his decisions to substitute a player as a Manchester United manager, have been strange and perplexing to say the least. Whether it be bringing on a rather inexperienced Nick Powell for Juan Mata who was performing ever so well in a must win match against Wolfsburg, or his Plan B to bring on Maruoane Fellaini as a no. 9 and playing long balls, his decisions has been largely uninspired and found wanting.
#2 Strange Line-ups
Playing Wayne Rooney. Not playing Ander Herrera. Playing Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger, two mid-fielders who are in their 30s against a dangerous and quick Arsenal. Dropping Morgan Schneiderlin for 3 matches despite being match fit. Playing with a young squad in a must-win tie in Champions League away from home. These are few instances where the manager has not been able to justify his status as a world class manager. His decisions have always confused the fans and the performances, just like the results, have been dismal. As a manager, you earn your money by doing the basic things right. Selecting a winning XI is one of those basic jobs and if Louis van Gaal cannot do that right, he might as well leave.
#1 Transfer Policy.
It was a well known fact since the beginning of last season that Manchester United’s defense is leaky with the notorious reputation of opening up at vital times in a game in important matches. Their defense needs strengthening to cover up the glaring injury crisis as well. What does Louis van gaal do? Buys 2 mid-fielders, 2 strikers and 1 defender. The addition of Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian was a strategically important ploy and credit must be given to Louis van Gaal. But his decision to let Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao, Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson leave in one transfer window can only be described as appalling and the lack of goals in the subsequent matches only justify the critics’ claims. And the inability to replenish the attacking teeth in the team only points to his inabilities to attract big names.
Not to mention, the David de Gea saga.