Was Louis van Gaal too harsh on Adnan Januzaj against Villa?

Adnan Januzaj scores the only goal of the game but came under fire from Louis van Gaal

Many reds were pleased to see Adnan Januzaj back in the starting xi and even more so to see him slotted in behind Wayne Rooney in the number ten role. Eyebrows are still being raised at the logic of playing Juan Mata, who is blessed with a beautiful pass but not so much in terms of pace, out wide on the right – but it was a welcome return for United’s young prodigy, who hadn’t started a game since February of this year.

Januzaj’s goal was the first for a United player this season and it was some goal, despite the deflection along the way. A run from a central position to wide left, he was perfectly found by Juan Mata, before sending former Manchester City defender Micah Richards sliding along on his backside after a drag back before slotting home. The forward also showed some great close control, but was criticised following the match regarding his ball retention. So, was Louis van Gaal too harsh on United’s young star?

  • It was United’s 15th win in the Premier League against Aston Villa at Villa Park
  • Aston Villa haven’t beaten United at home since the opening day of 1995/96
  • It was Adnan Januzaj’s fourth goal for the club

Was Louis van Gaal to critical of Januzaj’s overall game?

In the post match interview, Louis van Gaal praised the Belgian for his goal – but was critical of other parts of his game. He explained that he felt Januzaj, along with Depay, were guilty of relinquishing possession too often, usually in the form of being tackled by an attempted dribble.

“Yeah he had also a lot of ball losses and in my opinion unnecessary but Memphis Depay and different players has a lot of ball losses, unnecessary, and that’s why we don’t create too much chances and that we have to improve.”
– Louis van Gaal on Januzaj

But how much can be expected of a young player who is short of match sharpness and eager to impress? Januzaj did lose the ball early on, looking up at the referee in disbelief with decision not to award him a free kick – but showed exceptional composure and skill to score the only goal of the match. Manchester United is built on freedom of expression and you get the sense that Januzaj has been slightly shackled since bursting on the first team scene in 2013.

George Best, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Steve Coppell, Gordon Hill and Eddie Coleman are just a few United players that roll of the tongue when mentioning exceptional wide men who liked to take players on. Januzaj falls into that category and at times against Villa you felt he could step up a few more gears and really take the defence to town. There has been speculation linking the twenty year old away from Old Trafford with a potential loan move to Sunderland branded around. United’s number 11 put himself right back into contention, especially for the vital qualifier against Club Brugge in the Champions League last season and last night denied that he would be looking to move away from Old Trafford to find that first team football his talent deserves.

Memphis Depay was on the periphery of proceedings against Aston Villa and missed a glorious opportunity to make his mark and put the game beyond the hosts when he slotted wide following a great ball from Juan Mata from a deeper more central position. Depay will go on to be a great player for United and it is uncertain as to where the manager will deploy him this season. He scored most of his goals fro PSV from wide areas last season, but was played behind Rooney against Spurs last weekend. His decision to drop Ashley Young, who was by no means the worst player on the pitch last weekend, proved to be decisive with his replacement scoring the all important goal. Both players have a bright future and hopefully will feature together in the next few games. The first few games of the season can be sluggish affairs, with players getting caught in possession and slower to release the ball – this is why Louis van Gaal’s decision to question the overall performance of Januzaj was quite harsh.

Wayne Rooney had a night to forget

The United manager didn’t appear to have an issue with the performance of captain Wayne Rooney who resembled a disorientated groom to be, quickly regretting signing up to five a side football for the second day of his stag do. Rooney was poor and his influence was limited throughout. His touch was non-existent and looked off his game, however – as eluded to earlier – early games in the season can have this effect on players. United’s number ten will be back to his best soon and it key to have runners – in the form of Depay and Januzaj – playing off of him. The question remains, should Juan Mata operate more from a central position with the Dutchman and Belgian running in behind from wide areas.

Schweinsteiger will be a big player for United this season

One man who looks as if he has been strutting his stuff all his life for United, was new signing Bastian Schweinsteiger – who oozed class and was a figure of calm when he came on for Michael Carrick. The German World Cup winner has had his fair share of injury problems over the past season – but if United can keep him fit, he will be a big player for the club and will offer much needed experience to a midfield consisting of the developing Morgan Achneiderlin and Ander Herrera. He rarely gave the ball away, was eager to take players on in attacking areas and completed more passes than Wayne Rooney, despite being on the pitch for a mere thirty minutes. The diagram below showcases Schweinsteiger’s influence on the game:

Bastian Schweinsteiger action against Aston Villa
Data provided by FourFourTwo Statszone

Excellent defensive display

For all of the frustration at the top end of the field with regards to lack of goal mouth action, United were totally dominant at the back and limited Aston Villa’s chances to a single shot on target. Chris Smalling was excellent and is building on his impressive performance against Tottenham last weekend. He was joined by Daley Blind, who picked up the Sky Sports MOTM award, who looked composed on the ball but was rarely tested, even when the towering Rudy Gestede came in the fold.

The fullbacks also had an impressive night, with Matteo Darmian yet again looking like he has played for the club for years. He was extremely competitive, a little too much so when he grabbed hold of Richards and could easily have given away a penalty, and his positioning to the right of Smalling was exceptional. On the other side, Luke Shaw did well and United fans except a big season from the player who failed to push on last season following his big money move from Southampton.

5 talking points from the game

  • Great to see Adnan Januzaj back in the fold
  • Poor performance from Wayne Rooney
  • David De Gea missing in action yet again and his future as a United player looking untenable
  • Bastian Schweinsteiger was a class act when he came on to the pitch
  • Memphis Depay sholid have scored following a great ball from Juan Mata


3 Comments on Was Louis van Gaal too harsh on Adnan Januzaj against Villa?

  1. I have supported LvG from the moment he became our Manager. But currently the media reports seem to suggest that LvG is picking fights with players. Valdes, De Gea, and now Januzaj. The Guardian suggests that Pedro is thinking twice because of LvG’s utterances against De Gea and Valdes. I hate to admit it that I quite understand Pedro doing that.

  2. Depending on what exactly Lvg said to Januzaj, nevertheless a little charisma is needed when dealing with your players be it criticism or corrections . We can not entertain manager – player sour relationship at this stage of team rebuilding . Rooney and Depay should not repeat such below par showing against Villa .

  3. LvG’s version of how to win friends and influence people?

    My points:

    1. A manager needs to feel comfortable with his players and vice versa. There are a lot of people who say a lot of bad things about LvG and there are a lot of people who say a lot of good things about LvG. He’s clearly not a manager for everyone, but I think he likes hard working players who are multifunctional and have good ball retention capabilities.

    2. I agree that Rooney wasn’t criticized harshly enough. If he’s going after Janujaz, then surely Rooney deserved much harsher words from the manager, even though I believe it is a matter of time before his form picks up (he always starts slow).

    3.I don’t think LvG’s criticism of Janujaz was wrong. I do hope that it had more to do with misplaced passes rather than attempted dribbles, nonetheless. LvG keeps talking about need for more creativity up top but then goes ahead and stiffles that very creativity – that’s a bit hard to understand. But then, perhaps it isn’t the case. Reading media reports isn’t the same thing as working with the man day in and day out.

    4. My far bigger complaint is tactically. I can’t understand why there isn’t a place in the squad for Herrera. And I don’t understand why we are playing 4231 when the 433 was working so well last season, especially now that we actually have a midfield.

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