With Rafael On the Way Out, Are United Losing Their Cavalier Spirit?

It looks like the next player to vacate his position at Old Trafford will be Rafael Da Silva; a marauding and brave soldier from the hot-blooded nation of Brazil. Maybe not the coolest of heads, but he had more than a full tank of United spirit. This perhaps meant he took more risks than he should, but he has some great defensive qualities. Ultimately, his bookings tally was down to rushes of blood rather than tactical naivety. With his exit seemingly imminent, there’s an increasing sense that United risk losing their identity

First with Moyes and then Van Gaal, that cavalier spirit that Fergie imbued in our team seems to be dissipating fast; the rock & roll football of the last two decades is being replaced by cautious pragmatism.

Sometimes, anarchy beats stability. Ferguson used the unpredictable and eccentric talents of players like Sharpe, Cantona, Keane, Nani and Rafael to hurt opponents, and the players responded by lighting up the Premier League. Less thuggery and more skulduggery; “working class ballet” as the t-shirts have it.

But for Van Gaal, the system is sacred. Last season, Valencia was used at right back because he fell in line with what Van Gaal wanted. He could carry the ball out of defence and link up with Herrera and Mata, but his defensive positioning was hardly flawless. However, Van Gaal wants players who conform to his way of thinking. When Tony V wasn’t available, even a young and inexperienced player like Paddy McNair was preferred at right back to Rafael, which speaks volumes. What a shame Rafa wasn’t given the chance to show he can change, especially after seeing the turnaround shown by Young, Fellaini and Mata, but it seems the Brazilian was too unpredictable for Van Gaal’s liking.

The overhaul of the United squad is steaming ahead, with Depay having joined the squad, Darmian almost official, Schneiderlin still being pursued, and new transfer rumours emerging all the time. But what will this new United bring?

Will we see a return to the dazzling, manic and unpredictable style of play that left nearly half a billion fans worldwide gasping for more, or will we have sterile, tactical and predictable football played at a pedestrian tempo? Will our dictatorial manager’s desire for conformity stifle any individuality our players have to offer?

Van Gaal seems to want footballers who can slip quietly into the orchestra, not suddenly erupt into an improvised drum solo. I believe this focus on structure and system undermines the expressive unpredictability that made United such a fearsome team; hopefully the performances and results this season will prove me wrong.