There are three notable conclusions to draw from the early days of Louis van Gaal’s reign and the three friendlies which we have seen him implement a new philosophy at Manchester United. The first is that these are just friendlies and we must remember that, whether it’s against poor opposition or quality opposition. But the second is, still, that we are playing better. Much better. The third is that with each passing game, members of the travelling squad that appeared to be hanging around either to fill up the numbers or play in a shop window, are making a decent claim for the future.
LA Galaxy were so poor that it surprised many who had been led to expect to see huge advances in the North American game. But maybe we aren’t giving enough credit to Louis van Gaal and his tactics – opponents need to get used to these shapes just as much as his own teams. A three man defence is not something teams are used to playing against. As exciting as it was seeing those baby steps, supporters wanted to see it in serious action.
There was enough to convince those who were just needing that little push against Roma – Roma, after all, are a strong European outfit, ostensibly much higher in confidence than United should have been.
The key moment so far, which speaks so much about the development about everything at the club, came in the first half against Real Madrid. Michael Keane was beaten for pace on the deck by Gareth Bale – he’s not the first, won’t be the last – and clumsily brought him down in the box. Bale scored the penalty, but Keane’s confidence hadn’t taken a hit. He was integral in the game’s vital goal – having the assurance to hit a cross field pass and the ability and accuracy to complete it was a tremendous thing to see. Ashley Young received the ball and at once showed a glimpse of how he has already developed with a quick delivery.
Young is not alone in this and it would have been interesting to see how Michael Carrick would have been used and would have adapted. Much of the problem with United’s play in recent years is not to do with lack of ability, but ponderous and poor decision making. Under van Gaal, it is clear that the motive is to make a decision, make it quick, because if you deliberate, then the manager will make a move for you. Young’s delivery was quick, accurate, and impossible to defend.
It’s impossible to tell how it will translate into competitive games but one thing to take from the performances of Keane and Blackett on this tour only serve to underline just about the only thing that hasn’t changed – that for all the endless hypothesising about the best position for young players, it mostly depends on an opportunity in the side and doing the best you can in it. The two players mentioned have done well enough to at least be considered for the squad moving forward but van Gaal will probably want more experience in his defence – which, of course, is sensible.
Full HD highlights – Real Madrid 1-3 Manchester United