Manchester United and Paula Abdul. Who’d have thought that would ever be the opening line to our blog? But as the late great Abdul once sang, “two steps forward two steps back” is very appropriate when discussing Louis Van Gaal’s reign at United. Unfortunately, in this instance, opposites don’t attract.
The cold hard truth is, like Anderson in a takeaway queue, United fans are losing patience fast. And who can blame them? Yes Lingard has missed four golden opportunities in the last two games and Martial should have done better with his chance in the first half against PSV. But on the flip side of the coin, how many saves did De Gea make against Watford last week and who could seriously say PSV weren’t good for their draw on Wednesday night? As for the Fellaini substitution, Van Gaal can absolve himself of blame all he likes and blame results on poor finishing but he is solely responsible for that disaster. Love or loathe Fellaini in a United shirt – it’s got to the point now where I have a sick bowl beside me in preparation for his arrival – it’s universally accepted that Fellaini was found out months ago. Mourinho cut down the tree last April and teams have been drilling holes in his game ever since. Bizarrely, Van Gaal seems unable to grasp this truth and has been trying to replant the “felled” tree ever since. It’s dead Louis! Sell it for firewood and move on.
Let’s pretend Fellaini was still effective for a moment though. Is that really how United fans want their club to play? That when things aren’t going to plan in the first half of a game we immediately revert to the Fellaini slow build up, high ball option in the second half? To be blunt – like United’s attack – it’s championship tactics and that’s where Fellaini belongs. That may sound harsh but name me a side in the Premier League that would have him in their first team? Sunderland definitely, Newcastle maybe? Other than that I’d argue that none of them would. The game has moved on since his Everton days and the truth is he’d struggle to make the match day squad of City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool.
But let’s not lose sight of the real issue. It’s not Fellaini’s fault. My gran supports United and if she was offered the chance to play up front for her club I’m sure she’d jump at the chance – chronic arthritis permitting. So we can’t blame Fellaini for being picked. Van Gaal is paid to make these decisions and like a carwash attendant who uses a brillo pad to wax a Ferrari, it’s him who is responsible for the issues we face right now.
Amazingly, a win at Leicester will put us top of the league though. And with two winnable home games and Bournemouth away to come that would give us a massive chance of being top by Christmas Day. With that in mind it’s surely very hard to be LVG out if that becomes a reality? Of course the flip side is, by the middle of December there’s a good chance we’ll be in the Europa League. Unforgivable when you look at the Champions League group we were placed in.
Personally I think both scenarios are highly likely. Which brings us back to the start. Two steps forward two steps back. I suspect I’ve stumbled upon the name of LVG’s United legacy? Or another one might be “How to make winning painful”. Let’s wait and see.