Louis van Gaal has come in for intense criticism in the past week or so. A culmination of stagnant 0-0 draws and an exit from the Champions League at the group stage has seen some sections of the support actively calling for his head.
What do these people expect? We are not playing great looking football, no one would argue with that. We lost (or drew) games we needn’t have in our Champions League group and we enter the dreaded Europa league as a consequence. We lost out in the League Cup on penalties to Middlesborough. He’s spent £250m and we’ve nothing to show for it.
It’s frustrating. No doubt. But people mistake the support for Van Gaal as being ‘happy’ with what we see. To call for a manager to be sacked when there has been a clear progression smacks to me of spoilt, entitled, glory hunting immaturity.
The one thing I do lay at the feet of our manager/management is how thin the squad was post the summer transfer window. We let far too many go. Half of me think Van Gaal’s job, concurrent with maintaining Champions League qualification is to rid the club of the ‘old stink’. To leave no hangover from Sir Alex Ferguson’s time. Look at the squad now, to the one the day Sir Alex walked out of the tunnel for the last time. So much experience, gone. Almost irreplaceable experience. Rio, Vidic, Evra. Three quarters of one of the finest defences we’ve ever seen. Giggs, now in the management team, but the relationship is different, Scholes, RVP, Kagawa, Welbeck, Rafa, Chico, Nani, Cleverley, Fletcher, Anderson and many more. Deadwood has been removed. A lot still yet to be replaced. This is where patience comes in. World Class players do not sit in the aisles of Tesco, waiting to be snapped up. They require scouting, persuading and a lot of luck to not only fit into a new team with new colleagues, but to adapt to the Premier League and adapt to what it is like under the microscope of playing for Manchester United. We have already seen how Di Maria and Falcao failed to meet expectations, I don’t pin that on the manager. Di Maria apparently never wanted to be here and if his Chelsea form is any indicator, looks like both Louis and I were dead wrong on Falcao. But no one predicted that would happen. It could just have easily gone the other way and both be absolutely ripping up the division right now. Big deals like that take time to materialise. I do think we went in HARD for Bale and Muller last summer. Now you add Bale and Muller to any of our recent defeats or draws and tell me they go the same way. Hell, even add Herrera to the West Ham game instead of Fellaini and I think we come away with the win. Thin squad, late gamble on big stars and injuries have derailed what could have been a decent season. Simple as that.
18 months is not a long time to overhaul a club the size of United. There was so much work needing to be done on our squad that getting it right in only a few windows was going to take time. Memphis and Martial are players for the ‘next manager’. That’s already been stated. I don’t think either were intended to be such integral parts of the first team at this early stage. The midfield Sir Alex had struggled with since Roy Keane left. He hit upon a decent combination in 2008 when we had the trio of Hargreaves, Scholes and Carrick, but Owen’s injuries, Scholes age and our inability to replace either meant that heady double triumph of 2008 was a one off. Sir Alex had the trust of the fans and the backing of the board and even he struggled to turn things around so fast. Bleak were the years of 2003-2007, when Arsenal’s so called invincibles and Jose’s unstoppable Chelsea came through and swept aside the mighty Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson, Richardson, Carrol, Alan Smith, Bellion, Forlan etc. There were shouts then, on the terraces, in the fanzines, on the forums, asking for Sir Alex to be replaced. Sven is the man! Capello would turn it around. Even Wenger, all linked. Many would deny they stated it now, but lots of people, and I was probably among them felt Sir Alex had run his course, that he was now past it. But common sense, patience and perseverance prevailed and Fergie implemented his plan, won 3 titles in a row, featured in 3 Champions League finals in 4 years and finished off his career on a high.
The money, then? £250-300m is the claimed number. It rises daily, depending on how upset people are. It’s actually close to £125m, all told. When you factor in money recouped. Hardly an enormous outlay in 2 years for a club with the financial might of Manchester United. But even if it was, so what? It’s all relative. United have broken the British transfer record repeatedly in our history. The figures are obscene, but they have been since the start of the Premier League. United needed major investment in the aftermath of Sir Alex’s retirement and apparent unwillingness to spend what was meant to have been available. We’ve also got a rookie CEO, in Ed Woodward as cool operator David Gill stepped aside at the same time Fergie did. So there’s a chance we’re over paying. But I’ll say it again. So what? The money is better being spent than being paid to the Glazers.
Bottom line is the margins for success and failure are so minute, half an inch one way and you’re seeing goals fly in, half the other and you’ve drawn 7 games 0-0 and people want you sacked. Everton is the game I look to. We had the right team out, playing the right way and the football was sublime. If you expect a manager to come in and and perform with a high level of consistency, not short term success, but long term sustained challenging, then that will take time. LVG has got my support. I hope both he and the players have yours, too.
PS welcome to my new site. Thought I’d chuck something together to keep track of all my videos and writings, so here it is. Thanks for stopping by.