Van Gaal: Genius Pragmatist or Master of Mundanity?

Once again, it was pretty tortuous to watch last night – pretty much the same football as we have been witnessing all season, with little to get you off your seat, unless of course we score as we finally did in the 89th minute to seal the 3 points.

Obviously Van Gaal is not useless – you don’t win trophies in Germany, Spain and Holland by being useless, but should United fail to secure that Champions League place for next season, questions will have be asked as to his suitability to continue at Manchester United. On the other hand, if we get the results we need in these next 10 games and Louis leads us back to Europe, especially at the expense of our arch rivals Liverpool, he’ll inevitably be hailed as a genius.

It goes without saying that we are all hoping we can call him the latter come the end of May, but I can’t help feeling the way we play could so easily lead to failure during these next 3 months. I believe our most difficult game will be the one at Anfield, and should we beat Spurs the week before and manage to get a result at Anfield, whether it be 1 point or all 3, then I think we will be able to have confidence in finishing 3rd or 4th. But should we lose at Liverpool, it won’t be looking good for the final 8 games.

Watching the game last night, we were once again ponderous in possession, making life easy for Newcastle’s defensive unit. The constant shuffling of the ball across the midfield, with very little movement off the ball, is just never going to open up well-organized defences.

Both Young and Di Maria did get in some decent positions for putting good balls into the box, but on each occasion failed to do so. Blind and Herrera don’t do anything particularly wrong, but they are just so predictable with their choices. Playing as a striker in this current set up must be so frustrating, as the service is either slow or non-existent, and for opposing central defenders it’s a stroll in the park.

It’s no surprise that Falcao has been a failure. It’s easy to criticise him for not making the right runs, but his static play is equally a product of what’s happening around him. It’s not the way to get the best from a world class striker, and whilst it’s obvious Di Maria has completely lost his confidence, again I don’t believe keep-ball is the way to get the best out of our £60 million man.

If the philosophy is “keep the ball so they can’t score,” I don’t really know what to think. We scored in the 89th minute last night, yet without the brilliance of De Gea yet again, the Geordies would have scored a deserved equalizer. Let’s be honest: we didn’t really deserve these 3 points, especially as they should have had a penalty in the first 10 minutes.

As a fan, I can just about stomach these dire displays if we get the points necessary to see us over the line, in the hope that we’d then see a more attractive style of play next season, but if this is how he wants our team to play for the life of his reign, it’s going to be tough watching.

Of course we want to win; we want trophies back in the cabinet, but United didn’t gain 650 million fans around the world by just winning and playing predicable boring football. You can go back as far as the late 40s, the times my father talked to me about, through the 50s and 60s, and United were always England’s flair team. The 70s and 80s were difficult times, but under the Doc, the flair returned, and people started falling in love again a young team playing great, entertaining football, and the entertainment largely continued up until the appointment of David Moyes.

If this is just a one season plan and it gets us to the next step then fine – I am sure we can all understand the reasoning, but if LVG fails and we are still in the same boat come August 2015 as we were at that point last year, what will the plan be then? I would never stop supporting United, whether we’re in the Champions League or the Blue Square North, but I won’t be happy suffering another season of this non-descript, flavourless football.

Let’s hope we can beat Arsenal next Monday night – it wouldn’t only get us into the semi-finals, but would also give a huge confidence boost to the whole team and our great supporters.