When I was thirteen, I went to a summer camp in Felixstowe in the South East of England. It was there I felt the first bursts of freedom and independence and also the first time I got drunk. Some of us had garnered our spends and bought a cheap bottle of Cinzano Vermouth. We sat on the lawn and drank while puffing unprofessionally on our No. 6 cigarettes we had purchased from a vending machine, till we puked.
After that episode, even the slightest smell of Cinzano would make me feel like retching. Even though the demon drink over the years has, on occasion, caused me to fall to the floor in a dizzy haze, only that incident and that brand seemed to have affected me in such a way.
This brings me to the possible explanation for why Van Gaal has shied away from the risky attacking style that Ferguson deployed; the style yearned for not only by us fans, but also it seems, many ex-players.
I firmly believe that the debacle of that crazy twenty minutes against Leicester in September, when after being 3-1 up, we capitulated to be beaten 5-3 by a team of rank outsiders, was Van Gaal’s Cinzano moment that seems to have embedded itself into his psyche, leading to an obsession with possession and a commitment to cautiousness.
This has made United very easy to counter and control, and although we seem to be getting away with playing this style of football for now, most of us would rather see that cavalier style that sent shivers through other teams when they knew they had us next.
The fact that we have two big name strikers failing to perform, whilst our top goalscorer is misused way back at the bottom end of this diamond formation, bemuses most of us fans and pundits.
Ferguson once said, “I don’t use formations, it confuses the players.”
The fact that van Gaal states he has plenty of strikers but no holding/creative midfielders is worrying to say the least. We have Fellaini, Herrera, Blind, Mata and Januzaj, as well as Jones, Lingard and Carrick when fit, who could all slip into midfield, protect the defense and make that killer pass. Most of us would like to see Rooney and perhaps Wilson up front, and give the misfiring strikers a couple of games rest at least.
We might be third by the skin of our shin pads at the moment, but you have to wonder how much higher we would have been had Rooney been in attack, scoring, terrorizing and creating for fellow strikers (be it Wilson, van Persie or even the lumbering Falcao). Certainly closer to City and Chelsea than Southampton, Arsenal and Tottenham.
The fact that our top striker has not had one shot on target in 2015 is a sad indictment of a wasted talent. Come on Mr. Van Gaal, one freak result should not be so influential that you feel caution is the only way to win. We’ve been found out and the chance of losing our spot for the Champions League next season looms larger with every guarded game.
I’m sure we all want Van Gaal to succeed. He picked up our team when it was low on confidence and quality, and with a record of one loss in the last eighteen games, it’s hard to argue against this guy being the right man for the job. We just need him to be bolder and less intransigent, certainly in team selections and formations.
Do you agree that the 5-3 defeat against Leicester has had a profound affect on Van Gaal’s tactical approach ever since? Let us know in the comments…