2095 days ago
The Louis Van Gaal era: Down the Moyes way?
When asked about whether he had begun regretting having taken up the coaching job at Manchester United, Louis van Gaal, in his inimitable style said that he could well have taken up the coaching role at Tottenham if he was looking for an easier task to handle. While this might anger the Tottenham fans a wee bit, it goes to show the gravitas of the responsibility that has now fallen on Van Gaal; managing a club that has been spoilt by successes in the past and aspiring to the same levels of excellence is indeed a difficult task, not one that that can be handled with the wave of a wand.
The going has gotten tough for Van Gaal as well, who many thought would turn around the club effortlessly by delving deep into the vast experience that he has in pulling off similar rejigs in the other clubs that he has coached. His stint began on a promising note, with back to back victories in the pre-season friendlies . Fans that had already begun dreaming of glories were soon to be disappointed, however. United have gotten off to a miserable start in the Premier League, with just 2 points in 3 games, and are yet to register a victory this season. They also suffered the ignominy of losing their opening match at Old Trafford; the last time that happened was in 1972. And if that was not enough to knock the wind out of the United faithful, they crashed out of the Capital One Cup in particularly ignoble fashion, losing 4-0 to second division team MK Dons.
Manchester United exhibit all characteristics of a team undergoing a major upheaval in philosophy and playing style. Think of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United as a well-oiled machinery, the team played according to a philosophy that had been hard wired into the club’s DNA by the wily Scot over the years; a brand of football that was built on attack and pace, supported by a strong midfield that was capable of dictating play and a defense that would not put a foot wrong. In adhering to this style of play with military discipline, Sir Alex was able to extract the best from his team, even when the player roster looked in dire need of change. So the moment he hung up his boots, the adhesive force that made this unit a winning team ceased to exist, and glaring cracks began to be exposed, much to the delight of its opponents and naysayers.
What Van Gaal is trying to do is overhaul the existing apparatus and build the team from the ground up, his way. He has already begun tinkering with the formation, playing 3-5-2 as opposed to the traditional 4-4-2(which flourished owing to the insane talent of wingers that United has had over the years). The 3 man defensive setup in a league that is more accustomed and attuned to a back 4 is a challenge in itself, and indeed, there have been numerous occasions over the past few matches where the United defense has gone to sleep. Taking due cognizance of the sheer lack of talent, Van Gaal has convinced the Glazers to splash the cash liberally, and they have done so in style, spending around 150 million pounds in the summer transfer window; whether the likes of Di Maria, Blind, Herrera and Co actually live up to their star billing remains to be seen.
Van Gaal’s ways have begun taking root in the team, as explained in this article, but it is still very early days. The players are still unsure of themselves and their positions, and an understanding amongst themselves is yet to develop. Enough faith has however been placed on Louis Van Gaal and his vast experience in creating legendary teams wherever he has gone, but patience still remains a key virtue that many are not prepared to adopt. For the United faithful, it is going to be an arduous and seemingly endless vigil till the day Old Trafford regains its tarnished sheen and majesty