By Larry Taylor (larrytee0)
“This club has big ambitions. I too have big ambitions. Together I’m sure we will make history.” – Louis Van Gaal.
Just over two years later, The Dutchman has left his post as Manchester United manager a year earlier than expected due to the lack of ‘huge ambitions’ being fulfilled. There’s no doubting Louis Van Gaal underperformed in his tenure, however his rein was not fruitless. They say hindsight is a beautiful thing, so with the ink barely dry on the 65 year-old’s compensation package, let’s reflect on the good work of Louis Van Gaal that leaves United in a strong position.
It is easy to forget the circumstances in which the former Netherland’s manager took over the club. Arrival after a 7th place finish under David Moyes, Van Gaal’s minimum expectation was to get the club back into the top four, and ultimately, the champions league.
Although United had an indifferent start to the season with 2 draws and a loss, you still had a feeling things were starting to change at Old Trafford for the better. After the Moyes season, the locker room lacked belief. The ability to look around you and believe in the personnel around you was virtually gone. Van Gaal responded by purchasing Rademal Falcao, at the time, considered one of Europe’s lethal strikers, and Angel Di Maria. The club ultimately finished in 4th place.
The argument here is how does Falcao, a man who scored 4 goals, and Di Maria, who was largely out-of-form, impact the conclusion of the season. The simple fact of the matter is both players came to the club with their names associated with ‘world class’ and ‘winners’. United, for all the dour football, still ended the season in a champions league place. It is not always what a player does on the field, but off it, that generates success. In form or not, if Di Maria or Falcao are playing next to you on the field, you want to be a better player.
For all the inconsistencies, Van Gaal also performed against the bigger clubs. When United really needed to rally towards the end of the season, Manchester United came out and defeated Tottenham 3-0 in arguably their best display of the season. Later in the month, United also defeated Liverpool at Anfield to complete the double over the scousers and a resounding and entertaining 4-2 victory against Manchester City. Criticise the man all you want, victories against our two biggest rivals and making the Champions League at Liverpool’s expense earns praise.
This season has been more disappointing, but I have to praise the Dutchman’s promotion of the youth. Say what you will about Van Gaal being ‘forced’ to play the youth, but ultimately, he left his squad smaller to promote the younger players.
Van Gaal stated: “It is the way I lead this club. I don’t want a big selection because when you have a big selection it doesn’t give any chance to the young players,”
The former Bayern Munich man went into the season with 21 outfield players. To add support to the argument, the former Ajax manager did in fact send many players on loan and despite many questionable decisions, it would be difficult to prove Van Gaal did not expect injuries to occur throughout the season.
Anthony Martial is arguably the most promising teenager in world football. He has scored 17 goals this season, by far the most goals in the Manchester United squad, and whether purchased for Giggs or not, ‘LVG’ still approved the go-ahead.
The find of the season is definitely Marcus Rashford. He had a stunning debut against Midtjylland, scoring a double but he really announced himself just two days later with a stunning set of goals against Arsenal.
The circumstances that lead to Rashford’s debut, granted, may have been unavoidable. But the Dutchman did not have to continuously play the academy product. He had deployed Memphis at striker earlier in the season and had Januzaj, who he claimed could be a striker, available. He chose to stick with Rashford.
The Dutchman also brought Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who was nothing short of outstanding in his few appearances, to the club from Ajax last season who the Old Trafford faithful are happy to praise.
Finally, the maligned manager secured the club the F.A Cup, the clubs first trophy in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era and the club’s first trophy in 3 years. An extra-time goal by a Manchester United academy product in Jesse Lingard was celebrated by many as he lived out our dreams: To score a decisive goal in a big game for the club we love.
I will not defend Louis Van Gaal’s failures. On a broader scale, he failed to reach expectations, made confusing decisions in his squad management and had the club playing a very negative brand of football, returning the worst goal return in the club’s time in the premier league. He also failed to make the top 4, and he has paid for it with his job.
All-in-all, it is worth remembering Manchester City beat United to 4th place on goal difference. When you look at the squad of City, and all the faults of United, it is evident the red side of Manchester really is not in as bad a shape as the English press would have you believe.
But the enormity of his job needs to be acknowledged. Lots of players needed to be moved on and lots of promising players needed to be unearthed. Regardless of how it has come about, this part of the task has been completed. There’s no doubting that Manchester United has a squad to build on for the future.
Your Aussie Correspondent,
Larry – The United Stand.