Louis van Gaal is, shall we say, not universally popular at Manchester United. Upon his arrival after an impressive World Cup campaign with the Netherlands in 2014, the experienced Dutchman was seen as a saviour by many, with his no-nonsense attitude, know-how at the highest level and contacts within the game akin to Sir Alex Ferguson – sweet relief after the David Moyes era.
Initially all looked fairly well. Yes, the football played for large chunks of last season was not on the sort of level one may expect given the vast spending, but the Red Devils got back into the Champions League and enjoyed some standout results along the way. Alas, patience has run out this term, with chants of “attack, attack, attack” having been widespread over the winter, while elimination from a relatively straightforward European group frustrated many.
Recent weeks have been filled with calls for Van Gaal to be dismissed at the end of the season, or perhaps even before, but is sacking him the real answer? Maybe not, and here are FIVE reasons keeping LVG may actually work out for the best…
Manchester United are in a difficult period. Under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson everyone knew what the club was about. The Scot’s massive personality, in some ways, was Manchester United, with his take-no-nonsense approach and attacking philosophy hallmarks of the team he put out. Naturally, the hands of time caught up with him, and he retired from coaching, which has left the club in limbo. The subsequent David Moyes experiment was scrapped after less than a season, and since the Van Gaal has been steering the ship.
Granted, the one and a half years under the Dutchman thus far haven’t been a runaway success, but will tearing up the plan once again work? Any manager that comes in will need backing and will want to make serious changes to the squad, which may well result in another ‘transition’ year. At least with LVG in for next season there will be some stability
Since arriving at United, Van Gaal has handed debuts to 13 (THIRTEEN) academy players. That’s not bad going considering he’s taken charge of only 87 games, and actually comes through as just shy of one every seven matches. His stall was set out from game one when Tyler Blackett and Jesse Lingard were thrown in, and has continued right up to the goalscoring heroics of Marcus Rashford and the inclusions of Timothy Fosu-Mensah and James Weir.
A cynic may argue that his hand has been forced by having not assembled a deep enough squad, but there’s not getting away from the fact it’s encouraging to see so many young players connected to the club being given a chance… especially when big rivals like Chelsea continually overlook their own talent.
This leads neatly on to the next point…
Well, is he? Okay, the Portuguese tactician almost guarantees instant success and a few trophies, but in three years, or less, United will be back to square one. They say the brightest stars burn out the fastest, and Mourinho embodies this in football management, with his larger than life personality and ability to unite a team behind a single cause successful at first. However, the sheer demand he puts on his players eventually loses it’s effect, as we all saw at Chelsea this season, while his public outbursts will do little to please senior figures at a historic club like United.
Two seasons with two top four finishes is entirely possible for United under Van Gaal. Wednesday’s win over Watford, although uninspiring, drew the Red Devils level on points with Manchester City (occupiers of the last Champions League qualification berth right now), making for an interesting last 10 matches. Granted, the Citizens have a game in hand, but Arsenal are only a further four points ahead in third, and currently look unable to string two passes together, let alone two wins!
Van Gaal could then sneak a sub-standard United squad back up to Europe’s top table once again. There’s an argument to suggest that he’s culpable for the lack of strength and depth at his disposal, but to haul a team that’s been reliant of the likes of Lingard on the wing and Daley Blind at centre-back for large chunks of the campaign back into the Champions League would be some going!
With a great career behind him, Van Gaal knows what he’s doing. Some United fans may not like him, may not agree with him and may believe that the game has left him behind, but there’s no arguing with his track-record, and in difficult times it’s better to have a manager that has past successes to call upon than an unreliable option, such as Ryan Giggs.