They say history never repeats itself. Well, watching Manchester United this season is like Groundhog day, although without the humour of Bill Murray smashing that bloke in the face. Southampton repeated their 1-0 victory over United from last season. Back in January 2015 it was substitute Dusan Tadic that nabbed the winner in what was a dire game – with the home team failing to muster up a single shot on Fraser Forster’s goal. Fast forward twelve months and not much has changed; a substitute scores, Southampton win 1-0 – but of course, this rime around – United did manage a shot on target.
Daley Blind’s drive from forty yards was as good as it got for United fans the whole afternoon. United have now failed to score in the first half of eleven home games this season, whilst the visitors picked up their first back to back wins at Old Trafford in nearly forty seven years.
It was Winston Churchill that once remarked “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it”. Indeed, if you are Louis van Gaal – you stick to your philosophy, regardless of how ineffective and mind numbingly boring history tells you it is. I feel that each performance warrants the same summary on here. “Slow”, “pedestrian”, “unadventurous”, “risk adverse” and “immobile” are all words that have been repeated time and time again when assessing United this season – rather than discussing contentious, thrilling or debatable moments as in years gone by. For all the suggestions that the 1-0 victory at Anfield could reignite something this season, Charlie Austin and Southampton reminded us that indeed, unfortunately, history does repeat itself some times.
More excuses from Louis van Gaal
Its all fans ever speak about these days. The hype and excitement of potential January signings has taken a backseat at the dire football that is on display at Old Trafford these days. It all too familiar with reds these days. The 0-0 against West Ham, the 2-1 defeat against Norwich and now a defeat in what was an appalling game. United are falling behind the Champions League pack and will more the likely miss out on qualification for next season’s tournament. Former chief executive David Gill stated that the obvious that Manchester United have unachieved this season – but will the board take action at the potentially loss in revenue that the Champions League brings?
The Dutchman doesn’t look happy. His relationship with Manchester United resembles that of a miserable fifty year old husband who can’t stand the sight of his wife, but just can’t be bothered to do anything about it because, its quite late in the day isn’t it? Manchester United do not want to be seen as a club that is constantly firing managers when the going gets tough, whilst van Gaal is, well, Louis van Gaal – who keeps to his philosophy, no matter how bad things get. Peter Schmeichel felt that van Gaal changed his approach against Newcastle United in the 3-3 draw – my guess is that United simply played better going forward and were abysmal at the back. The philosophy always stays the same.
It was laughable that van Gaal’s response to United’s defeat was indeed the fact that this happens when a team defends like that. Yes, this brand new art of defending that Southampton have had up their sleeve all season. Its an excuse that he uses time and time again and rather than look at why United are failing to break down teams who defend in numbers – he prefers to blame the opposition for ruining the game. The game last season (the 1-0 defeat to Southampton) was dire – from both teams – but Southampton have picked up six points in their last two trips to Old Trafford. The Dutchman has suggested that United fans need to get used to not winning trophies– which of course was an extremely odd statement having been the main man at the helm that oversaw the limp Champions League exit and having spent over £250million.
There has been plenty of discussion on managers coming or going – which isn’t going to be repeated in depth here. Jose Mourinho has been linked an is apparently resorting to sending letters now. Pep Guardiola is rushing around airports informing journalists that he is moving to England, whilst Ryan Giggs is wondering whether he’ll be the Charles Windsor of management – constantly playing second fiddle before getting the top job. But United need to act quickly or will miss out once again. For a club that boasts the managerial records of both Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Matt Busby for over fifty years at the helm – it is a given that United want to look for that stability that served the cub so well over the years. But at what point do you make the decision that the philosophy isn’t working? Isn’t it better to cut ties now and plan for a longer term solution? Louis van Gaal will have to have one hell of a final season if he is to be considered a success.
Some reds are concerned that United shouldn’t be seen a club that sacks their managers. That may be the case if the manager is delivering and there is a long term strategy in place. United look lost – without any clear leadership. For all the excitement of the likes of Anthony Martial running at defenders, these moments are too few and you worry that with failure to qualify for the Champions League could see the likes of Martial or David De Gea looking to join a side who is constantly competing for top honours.
A week before David Moyes was sacked we ran a blog entitled “Will David Moyes will a trophy at Manchester United?” – we could ask the same question on Louis van Gaal and what is left of his managerial stint. He is due to step down at the end of next season and many will question, right now, whether he has left the club and first team squad in a better place that what he inherited in 2014. Louis van Gaal’s ultimate goal was to surely get United back in the Champions League, start competing for the title and build a squad ready for the future for whoever, most likely Ryan Giggs, is to succeed him. It is fair to say that despite Champions League qualification last season, Louis van Gaal has failed to deliver and his Manchester United are a shadow of former Ferguson sides.
So, will Louis van Gaal win a trophy at Manchester United? Will he instil a brand of football that is reminiscent of past glories? And will he ensure that he leaves United in a better position than when he started? The jury is out on all three.