On Saturday, we had another frustrating afternoon; another lumbering, unsatisfactory performance from our once mighty team. Only this time we didn’t get away with it.
I felt relief when I saw that Falcao was dropped and Rooney placed back into his best position behind Van Persie in attack, except that Van Persie, if we can be brave enough to admit it, has lost it. Whether through injury, the injustice he felt at Fergie’s retirement so soon after joining, or just a falling out of love with the club, there is no denying he blew at least three chances against Swansea.
Once again van Gaal fiddled with the team and you have to wonder how we are going to get any sort of momentum together while players are rotated and repositioned for each and every game. The lack of cohesion and wayward passing against a well drilled Swansea team was alarming.
I was also bemused that after a decent performance by Chris Smalling, who scored his first brace for the club against Burnley, he was unceremoniously dropped for Jones, who was just back from injury. Believe it or not, Smalling is now level on goals in this calendar year with Falcao!
What shocked me the most was poor Angel, who seems to have lost his wings, or at least had them clipped. His distribution was woeful, exemplified by such an awful cross-field pass in the 75th minute which ended with a Swansea throw in deep in our half. His corners, meanwhile, were either too short or too long, and gave a grateful Fabianski easy catching practice. At one stage, I even found myself wishing Jones would take one!
Consumer law states that “If goods aren’t fit for their normal purpose or they aren’t of satisfactory quality, you may have the right to return them to the seller and ask for a refund”. Maybe Woodward should take his case back to Real Madrid, or like an unwanted wedding present, sell on to PSG, where he seemed to be going before FFP kicked in. Di Maria is lacking confidence and the will to improve, and his body language is screaming to his agent, “Get me out of here!”
Herrera once again proved to Van Gaal that he deserves his place in the team but will surely be dropped for either Mata or Carrick when fit, as Van Gaal will once again fiddle with his team for the Sunderland game. I thought, at times, that Di Maria and Shaw were beginning to work well on the left, but then Van Gaal removed Shaw, moved Di Maria to a central position, and brought Young on for width down the left. I’m not the best strategist here, but when something looks like it is beginning to work, why change it, especially when you’ve got Falcao on the bench and Van Persie is crippled?!
With the resurgence of Tottenham under Pochettino, the brilliant transfer dealings at Chelsea, the clever signing of Bony for City, and the fact that Koeman has Southampton playing such great football despite losing 5 of their best players, Van Gaal cannot keep making excuses. By now, he should know his best team, but to me it looks like the players are either not buying into his philosophy or they just don’t get it.
Michael Owen was asked pre-match whether United should be changing their philosophy and history to fit in to van Gaal’s and he, surprisingly, said that the new manager should remember United’s ethos of width and attacking football. I totally agree!
Although a recent poll of United fans showed an 80% approval for Van Gaal, our place in the top four is under serious threat with Tottenham, Everton, City, Arsenal and Chelsea yet to be played amongst the last twelve games.
Unless Van Gaal can motivate like he’s never done before and turn this dire football around, we better brace ourselves for Thursday night football next season in the energy-sapping Europa League, and that’s if we even make the top six.