For a number of years, the more success Sir Alex achieved, the dominance, the constant progression of being able to build a team, over and over again, his stature and the legacy created, for me, like many a fan a growing sense of uneasiness in the back of my mind was always there… Who and what will happen when the Messiah finally retires?
That day came and went, and with it David Moyes. Hindsight is a fine thing and in retrospect, the wrong man.. Who though, could argue with the greatest manager of all time, adamant his fellow Scotsman will be the perfect predecessor to carry forth the torch in which Fergie had burned so bright. Possibly Fergie’s only mistake in his United career, in Moyes he unwittingly extinguished the torch and lit the touchpaper for what would become a speedy decline into the worst season in 25 years.
Enter Van Gaal, a strong character bringing with him experience, Barcelona, Bayern, Holland, he’s done it all. Every United fan must have breathed a huge sigh of relief, apart from the sparse few loyal to Ryan Giggs, a wrong decision at this time, I believe.
A word we would become all too accustomed with over the coming season, a 3 year plan, no promises of instant success, a refreshing blunt honesty about the man and a presence that felt very Fergie-esque. A new style of play, a new formation, possession football. The pre-season tour of America had fans in awe at the free flowing football beating the likes of Liverpool, Inter Milan and Real Madrid with a positive, confident and clinical ease. The excitement was back. The buzz was back. We started to dream again of the heights of years gone by…
The opening league game of the season against Swansea brought us all
crashing back down to earth.
The season did however begin with optimism, the new signings, in particular Falcao and Di Maria had us dreaming of the title again. Departures of Nani, Hernandez, Kagawa and co showed a ruthless streak. Already making his mark, his style and that word philosophy
cropping up again and again. Even the most optimistic of fans would have presumed the likes of Young and Fellaini would be the first out the door. What the odds would have been on these two being arguably United’s players of the season!
Trust seems a very important factor in Van Gaal’s plans, tactics and formations. The likes of Rafael and Shaw omitted from their natural positions for Valencia and or Blind/Rojo who we know aren’t in their most orthodox of positions, and of course causing the biggest stir, Rooney dropping into midfield. This trust he has in certain players must fill them with confidence, the lack of trust he shows in others must shatter their
confidence. He is a strong manager. A striking difference between he and Moyes must be the fact he is willing to drop Falcao, Di Maria, Herrera and Shaw. Fellaini no longer plays a deep midfield role and performs poorly. He now plays in his correct position and performs brilliantly.. Even at the expense of £59.7 million Angel Di Maria… a strength Moyes failed with miserably.
Over the course of the season more questions seemed to raised than answered, United seemingly unable to cope with the demands of the manager, whose dismissive interviews with the media worked in his favour and more often than not avoided the criticism the team, and more importantly he probably deserved. Is this a trait of a man that is admirable or that of a man using his often insulting arrogance to get him out of jail?
As the season draws to a close, we can assume progress has been made, Champions League football all but assured, his style of play now there to be seen throughout the team but with £150 million spent, often shocking defending, the top scorer barely with a dozen goals, one has to think had Liverpool not lost Sturridge and Suarez we may well have found ourselves out of the top 4. The ramifications this would have caused the
club would have been unimaginable.
So, is a top 4 finish acceptable for United under Van Gaal? No, and it never will be. Is he the man to take us forward? Yes. He has a 3 year plan and I fully believe we are on the right track to bring the trophies home.
And the future? No better mentors than Sir Alex and Van Gaal. Ryan Giggs.