Van Gaal Should Go

In TPQ's ongoing soccer theme Daithi O’Donnabhain argues that Manchester United should change manager this summer. Daithi O’Donnabhain is a Manchester United supporter.

Daithi O’Donnabhain

Football is replete with statistics now, and I do enjoy seeing that Xavi made more passes than the entire United midfield in the 2011 UCL Final (well,not literally enjoy), but I just want emote in this piece. 

Something is wrong with Manchester United, and its not at all obvious from statistics. Sure, we are only 6 points better off than the disaster of Moyes debut/only season, and yes only 62 goals scored is the lowest return in a decade. But its deeper than that. I worry about what Van Gaal wants to turn the team into, and I worry about what comes after him. 

The board screwed up the transition from Ferguson and choosing his successor. Its planning was done too late, and even then only consisted of asking Sir Alex who he nominated to replace him. It may seem incredible but the major theme in Ferguson's thinking was Moyes was Scottish. When Ferguson was doing theatre shows to promote his updated biography, it was the one piece of criteria he consistently referenced in his thinking, and it was because Ferguson had sentimentalised his own success, and believed it was down him being a good person and thought Moyes to be of similar stock, coming from a working class background in Scotland. What transpired was an avoidable disaster, the horror of watching a game where we try the same cross 82 times because we were bereft of all other ideas, where senior players like Rio Ferdinand were close to mutiny.

We need to be more proactive in our succession planning this time, and I think this needs to be addressed now because I worry what Van Gaal is going to turn the team into. This seasons performances have been about possession football, its the way football is going we are told. But it goes against what is in Manchester United's DNA, which is not only about giving youth a chance, but taking risks on the pitch. Its the daring to win, and waves of exhilarating attack. The "philoshophy" Van Gaal references in every press conference is the antithesis of that spirit. As United midfielder Ander Herrera notes:
Van Gaal loves possession and doesn't like to risk losing the ball. He wants to take time with possession and to keep the ball because he believes space is created by staying in the right place, because the team has the quality to find you.

This mindset has underpinned one of the most disappointing aspects of our play this season: players aren't running past opponents with the ball. Can anyone remember United breaking behind the opposition defenders this season? The closest I can remember was a Di Maria/Rooney breakaway at Arsenal that eventually came to nothing. This from the club of Best, Giggs and Ronaldo who were poetry in motion when they ran. This is the tradition Van Gaal will be taking us further away from, as he buys more players that fit his minimal risk/possession philosophy, and memory fades of what United should be. So its worth asking, now, is this the direction we should be going in?
Currently without a club is the man many United fans would have wanted in charge after Ferguson left, Jurgen Klopp. He built Dortmund into a fantastic attacking team, and before an Arsenal match last November drew distinctions between Wenger's possession football and his own style, which is quite illustrative of the stylistic difference with Van Gaal too:
[Wenger] likes having the ball, playing football, passes. It's like an orchestra, but it's a silent song, yeah? And I like heavy metal more. I always want it loud! I want to have this: 'BOOM!' If Barcelona's team of the last four years were the first one that I saw play when I was four years of age - with their serenity, winning 5-0, 6-0 - I would have played tennis.

I am making horn signs reading that, f*ck yeah lets rock. Are you ready Manchesterrrrrrr ?!

Van Gaal's philosophy has worked well at times this season.  Our performance at home against Hull was perhaps our most complete of the past two and half seasons in my view (that is overlapping Ferguson's teams too). And he has done the minimal task that was required of him in getting us back into the Champions League. But he will be 64 when the next season starts. Given we will be faced with the headache of replacing him sooner rather than later, is it not prudent to get Klopp in now, before other clubs like Liverpool or Real Madrid make the move first, and potentially avoid trying to recruit a manager when all the other best candidates are securely on other teams benches?

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

16 comments to ''Van Gaal Should Go"

  1. Since writing this piece,we are linked with a 40m + Januzaj move for Spurs Harry Kane. I expect to be vindicated more as the summer progresses. I really hope I am wrong.

  2. David, the worst Utd side I have seen, only limping into the top four thanks to the incredibly inept David Brent, sorry, Brendan Rodgers. Hands off Klopp, he's ours once that perma-tanned chancer gets the road - preferably sooner than later...

  3. Daithi,

    did you ever read the Moloney analysis in which he said that Ferguson might have picked a bad replacement deliberately so because he would never be able to come remotely near the achievements of Fergy himself? Is there not enough good teams in the capital for you Londoners instead of you having to rummage around the Satanic mills of Manchester? !!

  4. Sean, there was worse under Sir Alex’s latter years, United really drifted and became a quite ugly team to watch. At least we are signing players again, not patching up the old guard for one last season. The Liverpool side of Suarez,Sterling,Sturridge terrified me, it looked like you were climbing back on the perch Fergie so enjoyed knocking you from! But the signings made have not improved you, Borini,Lambert, Ballotelli are shockers. The weird thing is that high paced counter attacking game was never his style at Swansea or Reading, its the Liverpool of last season that was his signature.
    Anthony, I may have read it at the time, but I wouldn’t remember something like that, because I wouldn’t of believed it to be true then or now. He had a deep love for the club, and it would of hurt him to see what happened to United under Moyes. For what its worth Moyes was just too honest in the job, it just struck completely the wrong tone when United fans were fearful wondering if we were ever going to sustain our success after Sir Alex,he came along preaching low expectations, finding the good in a draw, saying Man City were the benchmark for us etc. He didn’t get the theatricality element that a Mourihno or a Klopp gets intuitively. I think Sir Alex thought he would grow into the role, but he wasn’t afforded that time. The whole thing reflected really bad on Sir Alex, I understand he was booed at some games (by eejits admittedly). I work in London, I didn’t grow up here, but having an Irish family, if you didn’t support United or Liverpool it would of been akin to stating you were gonna be a vegan. Laughed at followed by a kicking if it persisted.

  5. AM, I just re-read the Moloney piece you reference, as I hazily remembered, it just gets Ferguson's psychological traits wrong. This isnt an Adams type figure, working on something for 27 years and then wanting to see it destroyed.

  6. DaithiD,

    Laughed at followed by a kicking if it persisted

    sounds like the type of thing that could happen here if you predicted decommissioning, a ceasefire, going into Stormont etc, etc, and didn't go to wall murals honouring the great prophet (Sleaze be upon him) who delivered the peace process.

  7. Haha I think in strict biblical terms , Adams is less a prophet, more a possessed entity,not in control of his own faculties or destiny and left reciting Jonathan Powell approved incantations.You are the prophet Anthony, well, unwelcome in your home town at least!

  8. The signature style attributed to Rodgers in my opinion amounts to the top striker in world football performing at the peak of his powers and dragging his teammates to heights otherwise beyond them. As for Brendan, if he was really as good as his bullshit, and it was his doing rather than Luis Suarez, then where was his management skills the season past? Non-existent. As for Utd I think they've been on the way down for the best part of a decade but Alex Ferguson somehow managed to bely that fact. The three-in-a-row from 07-09 I would attribute to the emerging prowess that was CR7, without him I don't know if those titles would be won. RVP fired you's to the swan-song title of Fergie's last season. Sometimes football is no more than a precarious balance propped up by a slice of luck at the right time, for Utd that balance seems to be gone at this point

  9. Sean,

    for all that I don't think Rodgers is a bad manager but he cannot go without a trophy one more season otherwise he is out. Liverpool are living on their laurels and have not had a good system in place since the 1990s.

  10. Sean, I broadly agree with that analysis and the part Ronaldo played, his 42 goal season when we last won the CL was a joy to watch. We never competed in the transfer market after selling him (replacing him with Valencia and Obertan!) because Ferguson said there was no value in the market. Then years later he signs injury prone, 29 year old RVP for 24m, who was in last year of his contract! I contend he was no better than RVN who we sold to Madrid 8 years before to build a better team, thats a measure of decline to me.
    But where we differ is, I want Rodgers to be given a binding 10 year contract!

  11. 40+ million for 'Harry Who'? And Sterling the wee skitter believes his agents hype he is worth 30 million. Seems to me this is no longer about the football. Better off watching the Championship. Or if interested in the big-send scenario, a cheap flight to Madrid an odd weekend. United like Liverpool have had their era. As did Blackpool and the likes in decades long past. This financial lunacy may well come back to haunt them both along with others. Surely Harry Kane and Sterling cannot go from obscurity to superstardom on the back of a few good games? This is desperation mismanagement.

  12. Larry football has changed in the last 15 years. Zidane went to Madrid for a world record 47m, he did so as a 29 year old. 29 year olds going for world record fees is never likely to be repeated, instead the value is in age and potential, hence the Kane/Sterling valuations.There is still a way to go for the EPL to go in terms of wringing every penny out of consumers/advertising, so I expect salaries and fees to increase further. I dont understand the complaints about football, especially from the Left, surely this is an example of the workers taking home the major share of the spoils?

  13. DaithiD

    'the workers'? REALLY....?

  14. I think so Larry, and the value truly derives from their endeavors.Best of all: Catholics are naturally disposed to be the best at it (Pele,Maradonna,Ronaldo,Messi,Aguerro,Rooney...)!

  15. Money involved for me is like bankers bonuses, scandalous. Don't care who's receiving it.

  16. People are starting to realise that LVG is probably a giant faker, is there anyway I could show AAD my evidence he is a drug dealer?


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