Despite already entering his second full season in charge of Manchester United at Old Trafford, former Netherlands boss, Louis van Gaal, ultimately remains a somewhat unique character distinctly difficult to work out in the modern era.
Via his often entertaining approach to dealing with the media, his fellow managers and club fans alike – not to mention LVG’s memorable end of season awards ceremony speech after the culmination of the 2014/15 campaign – the 64-year-old Dutchman certainly isn’t boring when it comes to the personal side of Premier League management.
However, despite deriving from the ‘total football’ nation that his Holland, with successful spells at both the Nou Camp and the Allianz Arena firmly tucked under his belt, Louis van Gaal has ultimately left a lot to be desired when it comes to producing entertaining displays from his side out on the pitch. Since first arriving at Old Trafford, the word ‘transition’ still seems the most applicable when describing van Gaal’s so far forgettable style of playing the game itself.
So then, although Manchester United admittedly still have a chance of winning some much needed silverware throughout the course of the 2015/16 campaign, is Louis van Gaal actually fast becoming the next ‘Big Sam Allardyce’ of the Premier League?
Before such a discussion can begin however, maybe it’s only fair to share a few words on Big Sam himself. Although the former Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn and now West Ham coach, defiantly sticks to his guns when it comes to defending his reputation – let’s face it – this is a man who doesn’t exactly prioritize the notion of entertainment within the greater world of football management. Put in the kindest terms possible, Sam Allardyce is an old-fashioned manager whose distinct lack of new ideas only really serve to produce often slow and laborious results-driven displays.
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But when Louis van Gaal’s recently emerged reputation within the English top flight is given equal evaluation, perhaps his inability to get Manchester United playing the way they ‘should be’ seemingly arrives as a far worse crime than those of Big Sam. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has spent a ridiculous amount of money at one of the richest clubs in world football – yet painfully dull long-balls often lofted up to the isolated figure of Marouane Fellaini, somehow remain his most potent route of attack for the Red Devils.
It doesn’t matter how many dossiers Louis van Gaal has at his disposal to defend his approach in post-match interviews and the like, anyone who has watched more than a season’s worth of football in their life can clearly recognise a long-ball merchant when they see one – especially in this country! Fellaini himself is a player who certainly doesn’t arrive without his uses, but is he truly the most effective and entertaining asset Manchester United could have sourced themselves in the striking department this season? Of course he isn’t.
Seeing Juan Mata being utilized as an out-in-out wide-man also falls dramatically short of providing the Old Trafford faithful with what they really want to see. The talented Spanish midfielder can definitely operate out on the flanks when required, but he is much more of a play-maker than an orthodox winger. In utilizing the former Chelsea favourite in such a way, Mata is being distinctly robbed of his once bountiful ability to freely express himself in the middle of the pitch, with the results hardly doing justice to the £37million payed for his services in January 2014.
Louis van Gaal’s team ultimately look short of scoring goals this season, and such a negative implication for the way his side play football certainly remains a clear hall-mark of the Big Sam approach. The recent Manchester United vs. Liverpool match simply arrives as the perfect example. In seasons past, such an enthralling fixture would surely succeed in captivating fans across the wide spectrum of Premier League football in general – yet as both sides defended as much as they could without offering a great deal of threat up-top – it was hardly a game that will be fondly remembered for many years to come.
As David Moyes was rather unceremoniously sacked at Old Trafford for a series of similar vices as the current Red Devils boss, Louis van Gaal seemingly has to up his game across the remainder of the season. It is not enough to simply ensure results at a club as prestigious as Manchester United – the team must ultimately be entertaining in their style as well. So then, the time for relying on previous reputations is therefore well and truly over for LVG.