Tag Archives: lvg

Are Manchester United Better Under Jose Mourinho?

Some people like fast cars. Others enjoy fine dining while some like nothing more than settling down at the end of the day with a glass of wine and an episode of Eastenders. As for me, I get excited when I unearth a new statistic article.

I know, I know, it’s pretty depressing right? I don’t know why, but something feels pretty damn good about being able to pull out another useless piece of information as a trump card in yet another football related argument. So imagine my delight when I woke up this morning to a fantastic piece comparing United’s start to this campaign to that of last season under LVG, courtesy of Sky Sports.

It is worth noting at this point that, at the same stage last season, United were top of the table and three points better off than they currently stand today, a statistic that has been pointed out to myself, as I am sure it has many a United fan, several times since Sunday afternoon. However, that statistic alone doesn’t begin to tell even half the tale.

Perhaps the most compelling statistic of the piece is the percentile gem which lists United as top of the pile when it comes to shots on goal this season, with 92, compared to 54 last season, which was placed as the 17th best in the Premier League.

As we are well aware, United last season became almost a chore to watch. Sideways and backwards passing became the norm, whilst attacks on goal were just a mere rose-tinted memory of the Sir Alex Ferguson days. Mourinho seems to have altered the mentality of the squad in his short stint as manager, cutting the amount of passes down to 3623 from 4053. Interestingly, 31.5% of these passes have come within the final third, a near 2% jump on last season.

David Moyes was famously criticised during his tenure as Manchester United boss for throwing cross after cross into the opposition box, with LVG opting to play patient passing football in order to create the killer chance. Mourinho has opted with a mixture of the two to try and recreate the attacking fluidity of that seen during United’s stellar years, seeing his side launch 179 crosses, the 2nd best in the Premier League, compared to only 123 last term.

Mourinho also seems content with allowing the opposition to do all the running, with United currently sitting bottom of the pile when it comes to distance covered, with 735.6km. This could be key when it comes to the latter parts of the season when it comes to the fitness of key players. Under LVG, the team had covered almost 70km more than that seen by Mourinho’s men. Interestingly, United have completed over 150 more sprints than at the same stage as last season, with 3524, with that evidence pointing to the fact that Mourinho is trying to insert a more counter-attacking feel to his side.

See, hasn’t that made you feel better? We may have felt smug when we sat at the top of the tree in early October 2015 but lest us forget how quickly that smugness faded. Whilst we may be in sixth, the stats don’t lie. This is a United team that creates chances and that is giving us reason to enjoy life at Old Trafford once again.

Forget your fast cars, your fine dining, wine and Eastenders…give me a statistic piece to digest any day!

Manchester United Season Review 2016 – Vote Below

We want YOU! The United Stand is THE Manchester United channel that’s all about the fans, so what better way to have a season review show than to have one totally based around your opinion?

That’s right! Our United season review and awards show will be 100% about YOU! No so called expert journalists casting their vote on a club they hardly watch, no ex players demanding a fee to give their opinion to the fans who’ve paid their wages for years. We’re doing it the right way. We’re giving a voice to the only people who matter in football, the true owners of the game, the fans.

Below you’ll find a number of different polls you can cast your vote in. From best performance of the year to the most improved player, from flop of the season to best goal of the season – you can even vote for your United Stand Pundit of the year! We’ve got every category covered and the main thing is your vote will influence who ends up winning the most important awards in Manchester United’s season.

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No other season review matters as much as this one. Why? Because they’re voted for by the people who matter the most – YOU the fans.

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Why Louis Van Gaal was GOOD for Man United

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.

Chris Smalling celebrates scoring in United's 4-2 win over City (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Chris Smalling celebrates scoring in United’s 4-2 win over City (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
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.

Marcus Rashford scores v Midjtylland
Marcus Rashford scores v Midjtylland (Picture: skysports.com)
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.

See some of Van Gaal’s funniest moments below or by clicking here:

Louis Van GONE | United fire blanks as Top 4 slips away

By Larry Taylor (@larrytee0)

After Manchester United lost for the second time to Arsenal in 2006, the great Sir Alex Ferguson said: “Only true champions come out and show their worth after defeat- and I expect us to do that”.

This time, Arsenal provided the keys to the top 4 and put them in Manchester United’s hands. Win your final two games and secure Champions League football. It appears a foregone conclusion that the Red Devils would have all the motivation they need to put their best foot forward and obtain this goal.

But it didn’t happen. In case you hadn’t heard (you’ve heard), this was the final game at Upton Park, and the West Ham fans made sure the Manchester United players knew it. From the kick-off, United were off the pace. West Ham were not brilliant by any means; they simply out-enthused Manchester United. Every header, every loose-ball, West Ham were a step closer than United.

United found themselves down 1-0 after 10 minutes and failed to create any rhythm or continuity to their play through-out the first half.

The 2nd half saw United start fast, and like many other occasions, it took brilliance from 20 year-old Anthony Martial who scored a brace of goals in the space of 25 minutes, and put Manchester United in the lead. It was there. Right in this moment, Manchester United are in the top 4. 10 minutes later, it was all over.

A few set-pieces and horrible defending later, United found themselves losing 3-2. The wait for the kitchen-sink to be thrown in search for much needed goals was evident in the heart beat of every Manchester United fan – but it never came. Not a single shot. United lose the game and again, give the advantage back to Manchester City.

The situation Manchester United find themselves in sits solely on Louis Van Gaal’s shoulders. Granted, players performed horribly; but it is the manager’s responsibility to prepare his team to perform to the best of their potential.

 

Marcus Rojo has been out of form for the best part of a month, yet fails to get dropped. United needed a goal, so the Dutchman brings on Adnan Januzaj who has had an appalling season. These are the moments where you have to question why Danny Welbeck, Chichartio and Robin Van Persie have been allowed to leave the club when the bench had no strikers available.

 

United were only in this fortuitous position due to Manchester City’s inconsistent form since the announcement of Pep Guardiola’s imminent arrival. In 2 seasons, Louis Van Gaal has diminished everything that Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Matt Busby took years to build.

After being handed the keys, Louis Van Gaal handed them right back to City without a fight. One level of praise towards the much-maligned manager is the signing of Anthony Martial; but the fact that United’s go-to man is a 20 year old in his first season at the club, says everything this wrong with the current state of the squad.

 

All season, United legends, pundits and fans have criticised the manner of which the Red Devils play their football, but it never changes. Louis Van Gaal was a great manager, but his inability to adapt to modern football will be his downfall and should cost him his job.

Thank you for bringing through some promising players, but it is time to go. The club is a rabble; creative players have lost their confidence to express themselves; new signings have been misused and as a result, affected and most importantly, the club has lost their identity.

Good bye, Louis. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Your Aussie Correspondent,

Larry – The United Stand.

Blog | Sir Alex was right | Tour prep does not mean LVG will stay

Despite the international break, there was still plenty of news circulating around Manchester United. Such as United considering Pochettino and Mourinho agreeing a deal with Valencia should he not be employed by United.

The pick of the bunch for me though, was news relating to comments made by former United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, regarding Louis van Gaal.

On March 31st, The Manchester Evening News had put out an article claiming that Sir Alex had defended van Gaal and called for ‘patience’.

This post went out on Twitter and caused quite a stir among the United faithful. See some responses the news other sources below:

Others considered Sir Alex’s words before posting their tweet:

I opened up Twitter that day while at work and all I saw on my timeline were United fans slating Fergie. Some being quite nasty. At first I thought “what the hell is going on?” I didn’t think for one second that he would come out and publicly defend Louis van Gaal. Not in so many words, at least. So I opened the article by MEN and read it for myself. Here is what they quote Ferguson as saying:

“It is dead easy to be critical,

“You have to be realistic about some things – the number of injuries he has had: Phil Jones has played only seven games this season, Ashley Young, (Antonio) Valencia, (Luke) Shaw, these are big losses.

“The other aspect which is always easy to forget there are also five new players in their first season at United, and two are young players in (Anthony) Martial and Memphis (Depay) and their promise is good.

“You have to have some patience being a Manchester United fan and they have shown that over the years; in Matt Busby’s time, in my time.

“For 150 years of history it is worth having a couple of years on the quiet side of success because they will always come back and come back strong.”

Now when I read the article all I took from it is that he has stated a few facts. Yes there are injuries to players who are important. Ashley Young being one of them. He has been excellent over the last couple of seasons. And yes there are new players who are young and settling in. He also, and rightly so says that patience is needed from time to time, like himself and Sir Matt Busby were afforded.

What he didn’t say is that Louis van Gaal should be afforded MORE time than he has already been given. He also didn’t say that he is ‘defending’ Louis van Gaal.

I am confident that in his head he is thinking that we should be in a much better position than we are given the time and money Louis van Gaal has had. I’m not claiming to know what Fergie is thinking, I just seriously believe he also thinks we should be in a much better position that we are. We see Ferguson many times in the stands shaking his head, looking discontented and at times yawning! So you can’t tell me that he is backing or defending LVG.

In the interview, he is being recorded and he is representing the club. He simply cannot come out and criticise van Gaal and say that he thinks the club need to change manager. Imagine the frenzy that would create within the club and how embarrassing it would be for the club.

Sir Alex Ferguson was recently interviewed by Sky Sports (Picture: skysports.com)
Sir Alex Ferguson was recently interviewed by Sky Sports (Picture: skysports.com)

I guess what I am trying to say is that I believe people have read far too much into this and the reason for that is the headline that was used by various media outlets – “Sir Alex Ferguson defends Manchester United manager Van Gaal”. I’m willing to bet that the majority of people didn’t even read the article and instead reacted to the headline alone. Imagine the headline had read something like, “Sir Alex Ferguson says it’s not uncommon for United to have a quiet spell”; if it did, you can bet your bottom dollar we would not have seen the same reaction, or abuse aimed at Fergie.

Moving on from the Sir Alex comments, another big topic of discussion was the news from the Daily Mail that Louis van Gaal has a huge part in planning the pre-season China tour in the summer. This also sparked a reaction on Twitter with many people worried that it would mean Van Gaal is set to see out his contract. See a couple of responses to the news below:

I think it’s a little naive to think that Louis van Gaal will be staying because he is involved in preparations for the China tour. You could argue that it was the headline and word “lifeline” being used that got people worried.

As far as I am aware, it’s normal for the manager to be involved in pre-season tour preparation, so it does not surprise me to hear that he is involved. No one knows what his situation at the club is. No one knows if he will be in charge next season. It’s most likely going to depend on how he finishes the season with the main aim being Champions League qualification. For all we know, the decision may already be made.

United will face Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund during their China tour (Picture: theguardian.com)
United will face Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund during their China tour (Picture: theguardian.com)

One we can be sure of though is that if we finish the season poorly and don’t make the top four, the fact he was involved in tour preparations will not be enough to save his job. To think it is enough would be ludicrous. Let’s just hope that Ed Woodward doesn’t think like that!

Angel Di Maria and Louis Van Gaal Exchange Verbal Blows

Last week, Angel Di Maria opened up on his time with Manchester United, and it didn’t make for pretty watching for Louis Van Gaal. Speaking to the BBC, Di Maria claimed that his ill-fated spell at Manchester United came to an end for an array of reasons.

“I started a game in a position, and then the next one I would be in another.”

“I scored goals playing in one position, and then suddenly the next game I was picked to play in a different position.”

“It’s more that they didn’t let me settle properly than I couldn’t settle. I left a team that was out of the European competition and far away from being champions of the Premier League. I don’t think it was my fault or the fault of my teammates.”

The Argentine then added that he left the club “not only to be happy, but to win things.”

In his weekly press conference, Louis Van Gaal retaliated in a manner similar to that when he verbally attacked Paul Scholes for criticising him and his team.

“I have never seen players who look at themselves, who look to the way they have performed here, and that is always the fault of the manager.”

“So he is one of the players who are in the row of players who have no self-criticism. Unfortunately, it is also my life as a manager. It is always like that.”

The aftermath on social media was pretty critical towards Di Maria. I, however, decided to mull his comments over. Was he, after all, so wrong in what he said? He was played out of position. During his time at Manchester United, he operated as a winger, an attacking midfielder, a number 10, a playmaker and a striker.

His form at United was erratic, of that there can be no mistake. His first couple of months were electric, as he was played in his favoured position, and he thrived. He will remembered for his breathtaking goal against Leicester City, probably more so than the fact Leicester actually won the game 5-3. As the season progressed, injuries and break-ins caused his form to suffer, but he was continually played out of position, Van Gaal using his hefty price tag as an excuse that he has to deliver wherever he plays.

And that is nonsense. Let’s use Rio Ferdinand as an example here. He cost £30 million when he joined United from Leeds in 2002, but would he have realistically have been expected to perform in a position that he was not familiar with? Of course not.

Then there is the Argentine’s comments about moving to France to win trophies. This was a comment that angered many a Manchester United fan. As for me, I totally got what he was saying. If this season has shown us anything, it is that the club are miles away from winning the Premier League. When Manchester United are struggling to make top four, not least challenging for the title, in a league where Leicester City are the frontrunners followed by Tottenham Hotspur, serious questions need to be asked.

“Winning trophies in France doesn’t count” was one Tweet I saw. Again, nonsense. Why doesn’t it? Because it’s France? Because Paris Saint Germain are the only team capable of winning Ligue 1? Let me ask you this, does that same rule apply to Germany? Bayern Munich will this season win their fourth successive Bundesliga title. Same as PSG this year. Are French teams competitive in Europe? As a whole, no. Perhaps they are in Germany, but the domestic competition is almost a non-event, just like in France.

Had he, for example, headed to Greece and joined Olympiakos I could understand the criticism. At Olympiakos he would win endless trophies. Afterall, they have won 17 of the last 19 Greek Super Leagues. However, they are miles away from competing outside of Greece. PSG, in comparison, as a complete squad, ooze class. They have knocked Chelsea, England’s current champions, out of the Champions League in each of the past two seasons. It is completely possible that they will continue that run in the upcoming quarter-final tie against Manchester City. This is a team that contains genuine world class players. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani, Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura, Marco Verratti. The list is almost endless. By comparison, he left a Manchester United side that Marouane Fellaini is almost the first name on the team sheet.

And Di Maria has thrived since. His form at PSG has been what United fans only saw glimpses of. 14 goals and 13 assists. He was a world class player when he joined Old Trafford, and he is a world class player now in Paris.

Angel Di Maria didn’t fail Manchester United. Manchester United failed him. Louis Van Gaal has been quick to try to shift the blame back to the player but it once again exposes his frailties. He took a player who was Man of the Match in the Champions League final as Real Madrid recorded their tenth European title, and turned him into a player who struggled against Yeovil.

It used to be said that no player could recover from leaving Manchester United, that their career was only downhill from there. Di Maria has proved the contrary, and, for me, that is down to Louis Van Gaal and his ego.

Are Valencia Set To Ruin United’s Plans?

Last night Valencia sacked Manchester United legend Gary Neville and immediately turned their sights to Jose Mourinho, according to several media reports.

The deal between Manchester United and Jose Mourinho has long been thought of as all-but-complete for some time now but with Valencia keen to act swiftly following Neville’s dismissal, the former Real Madrid manager could be tempted by the immediate availability and guarantees that the Spanish club could offer, despite an alleged pre-contract between United and Mourinho thought to be in place.

It is thought that last season’s Premier League winning manager would prefer to be at Old Trafford next season but with United still clinging on to Louis Van Gaal, a return to La Liga could very much be on the cards. However, it is worth noting that Mourinho did appear to rule out a return to Spain in February this year after claiming that the competition amongst the top clubs was poor.

“I always say that I need competition and I need competition every week and in Spain, I was at an amazing club but I had four matches a year: Barcelona v Real Madrid, Real Madrid v Barcelona and after that we’d win 4-0, 5-0, 4-1, 6-1.

It was difficult to win because two monsters are together, but it was easy to win matches. Difficult to win the league because you are competing against another team that also win and win and win like you do, so in the end, I was champion in Spain with 100 points and I lost a league in Spain with 91 points.

In England, you can win the leagues with 75 points, maybe less, so I needed competition.”

Mourinho is still odds-on with the bookies to be in charge at Old Trafford come August, although he is now 8/1 to be in charge at Valencia at the beginning of next season.

GUEST BLOG: Unrecognisable United

Be honest.

Can you remember the last time you got excited to watch Manchester United?

I know I can’t.

Do you remember the days when you knew, no matter what, United would put on an entertaining performance for the fans? The pride you would feel in knowing your club would always fight to the end. And the manager lived and breathed for the team as much as we did?

Now look at us. A shell of our former selves. Our former glory. ‘They always score.’ Not any more. ‘They never give up.’ We do now.

In all my time supporting Manchester United, through the happy times and sad moments, I’ve never been as fed up. Or felt as let down. This season I’ve been close to falling asleep at Old Trafford. The theatre of dreams. Where dreams are usually made, nightmares have been created.

Louis van Gaal proclaimed that we’re happy to be in the Europa League’ and being champions is in the past. You don’t speak for me. Or the majority of fiercely loyal fans. Your excuses will not wash with us. We will not accept what we have become because you tell us to. Like our team used to do, we will fight until the very end. Until we finally see a team that resembles the one we fell in love with.

Okay. It was never going to be easy replacing Sir Alex Ferguson. As David Moyes found out. It was never going to be simple to replicate the impossible dream Fergie created. I’m not expecting miracles here. And I understand patience is key. But in two years now, I see no improvement, ridiculous comments coming from the managers mouth and a shadow of the team we once were. This isn’t, and never will be acceptable.

We simply can’t settle for this anymore. Players out of position, arrogance with no merit and out of date tactics that have no place in modern football.

I respect that Louis has experienced success in the past. But it simply isn’t working anymore. He doesn’t get Manchester United. What the team means to us. Our pride in everything we’ve achieved. The football we expect to see.

LVG out

I can’t excuse the players because, currently, on a Thursday night, I’m watching a truly dismal performance. The board clearly only care about the money that lines their pockets because our voices don’t hold the same importance to them as our cash.

So, I’m not saying Louis van Gaal is the sole reason we’re in the position we’re in. But he’s certainly played a big part in it.

Ultimately, anyone who accepts what we’ve become are the ones living in the past. We want to create our future. Not conform to rigid ways and a manager who believes his way is the only way and change doesn’t exist.

We are Manchester United. We are better than this!

I can only hope by May the stubborn one shuts the door on his way out. Another year of this is simply unthinkable.

By Nicole
Follow Nicole on Twitter: @UnitedSheStands

Louis van Gaal: ‘Stop living in the past and embrace the Europa League’

In his latest press conference, Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal, has suggested that United fans must stop living in the past and dwelling on past successes and instead, embrace the Europa League.

Although the Dutchman acknowledged that the Europa League is not particularly popular in England, he would not accept that it was ‘unsatisfactory’ for a club like Manchester United to be competing in it.

Speaking about the negative view that United supporters have of the Europa League, he said that 58,000 fans came out to watch United against Midtjylland at Old Trafford and that shows that the fans do appreciate the competition. He added that he also believes there will be a full house at Old Trafford when Liverpool visit for the 2nd leg.

Yes, I have noticed that you have a negative view, but you have noticed against Midtjylland there were 58,000 fans at Old Trafford, so the fans of Manchester United are appreciating it. How many fans do you think there will be against Liverpool? I think 75,000. And I also think Liverpool will be sold out. That is what I have to say – it is very important for both teams.

You can read the full article on the Guardian website by clicking here.

A club of Manchester United’s stature should always be aiming for the very best and it doesn’t come better than the UEFA Champions League. United are considered one of Europe’s elite clubs and Europe’s elite clubs ply their trade in the Champions League.

So it frustrates me to hear Louis van Gaal saying that we should embrace the Europa League. Okay, this season we really have no choice and it’s looking increasingly unlikely that we will qualify for next year’s Champions League with top 4 slipping away and if we progress to the last 8 of the Europa League, there are several difficult teams we could face.

Louis van Gaal knows that Manchester United belong in the Champions League. So why is he ‘bigging-up’ the Europa League, trying to make it seem acceptable for Manchester United to compete in it?

It’s because he is failing to secure a top four spot and he is worried that he may also fail to guide United to a Europa League triumph. The best he can aim for then is to finish the Premier League season in a Europa League spot. So it makes sense for him to be urging us fans to ’embrace’ it.

Well, I’m sorry Louis, but we belong in the Champions League.

Injection Of Youth Breathes Life Into Soulless United

Even the most avid Louis Van Gaal fan would struggle to reel off a list of things he has got right during his time in charge. It is no secret that his near two years in charge, this season in particular, has been dire to say the least but, if there is one thing that he certainly is not guilty of, it is sticking to the club tradition of blooding youngsters into the first team squad.

The more skeptical of us may believe that this is due to the squad being unnecessarily thin whilst LVG himself claims that he deliberately scaled down the squad in order to bring in youth players. Whatever the truth is, recent weeks have seen some much improved performances on the pitch, with the recent emergence of Marcus Rashford proving to be the real highlight.

In truth, the writing was on the wall from the very beginning of LVG’s tenure, having included Jesse Lingard and Tyler Blackett in his very first matchday squad in 2014. Since then, a further 12 academy players have made their debuts for the club, with some of those beginning to become a regular presence around the squad.

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, at 19-years-old, looks like he has massive potential and has recorded some steady performances within the back four this season. Tim Fosu-Mensah made his debut as a substitute in the recent win over Arsenal, before starting the subsequent game against Watford where he put in a decent shift. And then there is the aforementioned Marcus Rashford. In only three games for United, the youngster has already been sounded out for an England call-up and been touted as ‘the next big thing’.

Granted, it is far too early to claim that Rashford will indeed turn out to be a top player, we have been here before after all (Macheda anyone?), but the early indications are positive, with the well-documented doubles against FC Midtjylland and Arsenal propelling him from the unknown to household name.

The most frustrating aspect of the youngsters utilised to date by LVG is the under-use of Andreas Pereira. The 20-year-old is seen by many as the crown jewel of United’s academy but has seemingly been overlooked on occasion by Van Gaal. What is more frustrating is that the Brazilian is being overlooked by Jesse Lingard who, as another academy graduate given his debut under the Dutchman, has produced moments of brilliance and mediocrity in equal measure. It is widely known around Old Trafford that many fans would like to see Pereira given more of an opportunity over the coming months, with many sensing he could prove to be as big a loss as Paul Pogba if he was to decide his future lay away from the club.

Louis Van Gaal has always stated that when he leaves the club he will leave it in a better state than when he arrived. As recent as three weeks ago that was hard to believe. However, these claims are now becoming easier to understand. Of course, any manager could have come in and spent what the Dutchman has, and more than likely delivered some silverware, but what LVG is achieving is a squad which could be able to compete for the next 10 years. It is far too early to launch any ‘class of 92’ comparisons but the latest class could be one that helps the club begin to reach the levels that we are all used to and expect.