Ever since the unpredictable Dutchman took over from a seemingly hapless David Moyes in the summer of 2014, we’ve been told how the club has quickly moved forward, much progress has been made and pretty much everything at Old Trafford is looking better than it had under our previous gaffer.
But is this fair?
The league table might make slightly better reading, but United now find themselves playing in the Europa League (Moyes got United to a Champions League quarter-final) and fans are becoming increasingly more disillusioned with a string of disappointing performances along with some pretty poor results.
So was it all as bad under Moyes as many of us think?
Okay, United may have finished 7th at the end of the 2013/14 season, but here are a few memorable matches taken from the former LMA Manager of the Year’s short lived tenure that United fans could probably only dream of seeing under the current boss.
Swansea 1-4 Manchester United, August, 2013
As the club were still coming to terms with the loss of Alex Ferguson, who had overseen almost a quarter of a century of success, all eyes turned to the Liberty Stadium to see how his handpicked predecessor would fair in his first game in the hot seat, with many fearing the worst. But such trepidation was to be short lived (for the time being anyway) as a rampant side brushed aside the Swans thanks to goals from Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck – both of whom would be sold when Van Gaal took over at the club.
Bayer Leverkusen 0-5 Manchester United, November, 2013
United reached the Champions League’s last 16 with a game to spare after thrashing Bayer Leverkusen on a memorable night in Germany. The result was down, in part, to a terrific performance from Wayne Rooney, who had a hand in every goal. His chip to the back post led to Antonio Valencia’s tap-in for the first, before Emir Spahic scored an own goal from the United striker’s free-kick. Jonny Evans turned in from a corner while Rooney also created opportunities for Smalling and Nani as the club earned themselves a place in the knockout stage with a game to play. What LVG would give for that luxury now?
Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United, December, 2013
Key to preventing a third straight defeat and setting-up a good run of form over the Christmas period, which saw United win eight out of ten games, was this win at Villa Park. A potentially tricky looking fixture was put to bed early with two quick Danny Welbeck goals before Wayne Rooney set up Tom Cleverley to drive in a third. The away end ironically sang “We are staying up,” but if the truth be told, United have failed to replicate this performance in Van Gaal’s subsequent two visits to a very poor Aston Villa outfit.
Hull 2-3 Manchester United December 2013
In coming from behind, this Boxing Day victory was the fifth consecutive win for David Moyes’ team as James Chester’s own goal completed a stunning Christmas comeback from two goals down. Chester gave the hosts the lead with a volley, before David Meyler’s shot deflected in after 12 minutes. But Chris Smalling headed in, before Wayne Rooney thumped United level from more than 20 yards, his 150th Premier League goal for the club. And the win was sealed as Ex-Old Trafford man Chester headed into his own net in the second half, before United’s Antonio Valencia was sent off. This win wasn’t memorable for the performance, more for the fact that it showed United were still capable of producing dramatic comebacks from losing positions – a trait which seems to have vanished under Luis Van Gaal.
Manchester United 3-0 Olympiakos, March 2014
Okay, it’s fair to say that if LVG had been in charge for the first leg, United probably wouldn’t have needed a three goal comeback in order to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. But as much as the game in Athens had been memorable for some pretty dire football by United, the second leg went down as one of the most memorable second-leg turnarounds in recent Old Trafford memory. Two second half goals had brought the tie level and when Van Persie’s free kick made it 3-0 in the second period the stadium exploded, giving some United supporters hope of an extremely unexpected, extended European Cup campaign. But it wasn’t to last long and would eventually come to an end against Bayern Munich in the next round.
Newcastle 0-4 Manchester United, April, 2014
Although this win was against a pretty lacklustre Newcastle side, it was actually United’s fourth consecutive away victory in the league and came-about despite Moyes making eight changes to his side prior to the game with Bayern Munich a few days later. Juan Mata had exquisitely curled a 20-yard free-kick into the top corner to give United the lead, before a low Javier Hernandez shot came back off the post before a composed Mata finish extended the lead. Goals from Hernandez and a last minute strike from Jazuzai completed the demolition. But despite another great away performance, the league table told the real story, as it only lifted United to within 7 points of 4th spot and Moyes would eventually leave the club just a few weeks later following defeat to his old club Everton.