Out went the ‘Chosen One’ and in came a manager with cojones. A manager who had the balls and wasn’t afraid to show them the path, both figuratively and literally as Luca Toni found out in Bayern Munich.
The authoritarian Van Gaal immediately revamped the team and bought in player after player. The spendthrift nature of his initial months earned his team the moniker ‘Van Galacticos’. When the dust settled, his team had British record transfer and man of the match of 2014 Champions League final ,Angel Di Maria; the highest paid youngster in football, Luke Shaw and the ridiculously highly paid Radamel Falcao. Others signees included Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera and LVG’s favourite boy Daley Blind. Total spending crossed 200 million euros. Naturally results and propulsion to the top was expected, needless to say losing would be costly.
In a season where Manchester United were expected to challenge for the title, win cups and bring back beautiful football, they have failed on all ends.
Van Galacticos have completely faltered. Di Maria’s initial days had everyone dreaming but it has been a downhill since then. Falcao looks every bit a footballer returning from a long term injury. His lack of fitness and sharpness is evident with goals coming at a premium. Luke Shaw is not trusted by Van Gaal and has spent most of the season with the medical staff. Marcos Rojo has been handed a tough one. He plays in a defence that is suited for a mid table club and is played out of position. Ander Herrera has been going through a good patch of form but would wonder about his future, as he warmed the bench at several occasions as Wayne Rooney was deployed in the midfield.
Daley Blind is the only player who has performed some what up to his abilities and has not disappointed, though even he has seemed lost in a system that is obviously not suited for the players around him.Tweaking the formation to 3-5-2 cost United a number of matches and points. Despite obvious flaws in the system LVG persisted too long with it and has gone on record to say the traditionally used 4-4-2 ‘twitches his ass’ despite better results.
One of the biggest criticism against David Moyes was that his team did not play the Man Utd brand of football. LVG has failed spectacularly in this regard. He’s not been able to find a consistent formation and system and if things don’t go according to plan then the alternative plan is to lump the ball forward to Marouane Fellaini. Yup, that’s right the much maligned Fellaini is still plan-B like last year. When Sam Allardyce complains about your team playing long balls you really have to analyse your playing style.
The Belgian midfielder was considered as the downfall for Moyes’s Manchester career. He was bought in as a last minute expensive stopgap and failed to inspire the team. The same midfielder who made every United fan cringe when they saw his name pop-up in the starting lineup has been recently described as ‘undroppable’ by the Dutch manager. Starting behind Rooney, the player described as ‘all knees and elbows and no finesse’ is making the difference as dare I say a battering ram at best.
Fellaini has at times dragged the team to success and deserves all the plaudits he is getting, but there is something common between him and everyone else making United remotely competitive. They weren’t brought in by LVG and barring De Gea all of them were not trusted initially.
Mata was told he doesn’t play well in midfield, while Rooney was shifted in the midfield as Falcao was rated better than him, while Fellaini was benched. All have gone on to prove a point and showcase their quality. The manager can be credited for motivating them but you have to look at the situation and wonder how he could get it so wrong.
When Van Gaal arrived, he made the claim of being here not just to take the reds back to the Champions League but to be champions of EPL. With all titles virtually out of his reach and having failed on his self proclaimed mission, I don’t think it would be too harsh to call him a failure and ask for his head. A quick review of his season is: humiliated by League One side MK Dons in Capital Cup, dumped out of the FA Cup in the sixth round by Arsenal and the league is virtually Chelsea’s with United fighting it out for the Champions League spots. However, the win against Manchester City in the derby credits some respect.
Oddly, Moyes was thrown out for this performance: semi final exit in Capital Cup to Sunderland, FA Cup exit in round 3 to Swansea city and a poor league performance that ended up in United finishing 7th. Do keep in mind that Moyes spent less than half of what LVG was provided with. A case can be made that he didn’t have the same pull as LVG to attract stars, though oddly its two of his marquee signings that are star performers for the club this season.
I’m not trying to fight the case for David Moyes, I never thought he was the right man for the job as his trophy cabinet just has the ‘Arsene Wenger trophy‘ ( trophy of consistency and stability without actually winning something). But surely, both the managers should be viewed by the same measuring scale. From a neutral’s perspective, I think the fans have been too kind to LVG.
Rumours have it that 150 million euros will be made available again in the summer for United to revamp their squad. The logic behind providing financial muscle to a manager who failed with 200 million is baffling. Teams including City, Chelsea and PSG have gone on to win titles after having spent much less in a season.
Also with Evans, Smalling and Jones playing as center backs and a midfield desperately crying for an engine, one only has to wonder about transfer priorities. Even if Van Gaal doesn’t run the show on transfers, he surely has a say in their approval and should be held accountable for them.
If United are to go ahead with their version of Galacticos, then the coaches would have to follow suit. If you do not deliver, you are fired and if you do deliver but don’t do in a style appreciated by fans, you are amicably shown the door à la Fabio Capello – only success with style guarantees continued tenure as manager. A wave of change is coming in the red side of Manchester and LVG would have to bring his A-game not to be drowned out by it.