Just how good is Louis Van Gaal? We are all aware that LVG came to United with a pretty impressive CV, but he had predominantly managed teams that had very little competition in their domestic leagues, and whilst winning a Champions League trophy is not to be sniffed at, it’s also a competition that requires some luck. In knockout football, anything can happen as we saw when Liverpool won it, but came 6th in our domestic league, and Chelsea won it whilst coming 5th. This in itself shows just how difficult it is to succeed in the Premier League.
We may not have the best teams in the world – whoever wins in May could get knocked out of the Champions League in March, but there is no doubt that over 38 games it’s the most difficult league in which to compete. Almost every game is a true test of skill and endurance. This must be the reason that it is the most watched football league on the planet – no other league has the unpredictability of the EPL.
LVG has now had 6 months at United, along with £150 million of new talent, and whilst I don’t want to write him off just yet, in my opinion he has already shown he is no Sir Alex (clearly, SAF will never be matched), but he also looks a lesser manager than Mourinho.
On Saturday, I watched the Chelsea v Newcastle game, and until Chelsea scored right on half time, Newcastle were undoubtedly the better team. At half time Jose must have given his own version of the ‘hair dryer’ as Chelsea were so much better in the second half and fully deserved their victory. It was so reminiscent of United under Sir Alex, and that’s where these top coaches / managers earn their money. Under Fergie, if we were a goal down with 15 minutes to go, you would see him barking instructions, and the players giving everything they had to get that equalizer and possibly a last gasp winner, but under LVG I am not seeing that same emotion and commitment. The game on Sunday proved how our performances on the pitch can suffer as a result.
The Premier League, the teams, the supporters all demand that passion, but it has to come from the manager down to the players, and seeing LVG sitting with his clipboard until the final whistle is just not what we are used to, and so different to how Sir Alex and now Mourinho at Chelsea behave.
I know we can’t cry over spilt milk, but United dug their own grave back in 2013 when they failed to appoint Jose – I would bet my house that we, not Chelsea, would be sitting top of the league had our board not made such a massive error in appointing Moyes, and now we have to hope that LVG doesn’t turn out to be another mistake.
With 17 league games to go, these are arguably United’s most important 17 games for many a year. We absolutely cannot afford to miss out on Champions League football, which has cost us £50 million this season, but would be around £100 million next year should we fail to qualify due to the terms of the sponsorship deals. I believe we could also lose players like De Gea and Di Maria, and fail to attract the best players, unless we again pay double what they are really worth. Let’s be honest – Di Maria is not worth almost twice as much as Alexis Sanchez; you could argue they are worth about the same, but with no Champions League to offer, we were held to ransom by both Real Madrid and the player.
We need LVG to maybe stop talking about his philosophy and get a grip on what it really takes to win games in the Premier League and have his players play with a passion that we haven’t seen since Sir Alex retired.
I may not be popular for saying this, but if LVG fails this season to get us back into the Champions League, then for me his time is up, and maybe a true 2-3 year rebuilding plan needs to be put in place with a younger, passionate man in charge. As I kept saying last year, Diego Simeone would do for me! He shows incredible passion and seems to turn unknown players into superstars, whilst working with a very small budget.
However, when all is said and done, I hope LVG doesn’t let us all down; I hope he succeeds this season by getting us that coveted Champions League place, and over the next 2 years brings more trophies to Old Trafford. Manchester United cannot fail, and I just hope LVG really understands that, and what it means to so many passionate supporters around the world.
Finally, if LVG doesn’t play Di Maria in the free role like Ronaldo at Real Madrid and Messi at Barcelona, it will be a complete waste of talent and money, and if he doesn’t also play Falcao as our main striker, he will be wasting not one but two of the most talented players in the world. Strikers thrive on confidence, and what LVG did to Falcao on Sunday by not even naming him for the bench must have seriously dented his self-worth. He also needs to quit with his ego and understand that with the quality he currently has at his disposal, playing a 3-5-2 is suicidal.