Anthony Martial fails to find the back of the net against West Ham United
Another afternoon. Another 0-0. Another excuse from the manager. Louis van Gaal saw his Manchester United side fail to score for the sixth time this season, as West Ham United earned a well deserved point at Old Trafford. The visitors had the better of the chances, with David De Gea thwarting Victor Moses – who was through one on one following a poor Daley Blind pass. The Spaniard was also lucky to see Chris Smalling’s attempted clearance smash the post, just before Winston Reid hit the same upright later in the half.
Argentine Mauro Zárate was guilty of missing the best and easiest chance of the match as his outside of the boot strike went well wide having been played in by Andy Carroll. Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial went close in the second half, but it was the same old story as United picked up another goalless draw. Statistics show that United are much tighter at the back and concede fewer goals than last season, however – the visitors were unlucky not to find the back of the net.
United’s manager believes that his side have not got luck on their side at present, which was evident in the amount of chances van Gaal believes his side have squandered. With United apparently cooling any interest on Pep Guardiola, it appears that the Dutchman will be able to finish off his philosophy as we approach the halfway mark of his tenure.
Will the philosophy ever work?
I never ever thought David Moyes was a Manchester United manager. Ten months after he started, many fans were jumping for joy at the departure of the man who had the hardest job in football. For me, the Scot’s departure wasn’t even an issue as I never felt he would ever aspire to become the natural successor to Sir Alex Ferguson. In the week leading up to this departure – we ran a blog asking the question “Will David Moyes win a trophy at Manchester United?” – which is the main question for a manager at one of the biggest club’s in the world. Is there a plan? Is there a strategy in place? No matter how long the United board gave Moyes, I didn’t think his brand of football or management style would result in a triumphant trophy win and be considered a success at United.
It might seem a bit harsh on Moyes, who did a great job at Everton for over a decade, but he was never tested on the scale that Manchester United demands and his brief spell put United in reverse. Louis van Gaal has won titles all over Europe. He also won the biggest club trophy you can win back in 1995 with a very young Ajax side. He has managed some of the best players we’ve seen in the last twenty years. Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, to name a few, have all worked under the philosophy of van Gaal. It seemed like a match made in heaven – an experienced manager, who has won trophies in different countries and has a ego big enough to be in the Old Trafford hot seat.
“The question is would Luis Suarez or Sergio Aguero score if they were here? That is a question mark. You never know. I think they would, though.”
– Louis van Gaal on United’s missed chances
Fast forward eighteen months and United are in the hunt for the title, on the brink of Champions League qualification but…the football is dull, very dull. Ex-United players, most noticeably Paul Scholes, have been extremely vocal in openly criticising van Gaal’s risk adverse tactics that are a million miles away from the swashbuckling offensive approach of Sir Alex Ferguson. The Ducthman continues to deploy two holding midfielders, at home against – when a more open and attacking approach may lead to more goals. United may concede, but fans want to see the side take a chance. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United always played with great width, whether it be Andrei Kanchelskis, Lee Sharpe, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo or David Beckham – Ferguson would ensure there were attacking option to make the pitch enormous for the defending side. Under van Gaal – United do not look anywhere near that level.
As mentioned, United are in a decent position – which could be why van Gaal has questioned the motives of United fans chanting “attack, attack, attack” in yet another underwhelming performance. Van Gaal’s remarks about Luis Suarez or Sergio Agureo scoring chances, speaks volumes of what he thinks is the problem at present – but doesn’t feel that United will strengthen come January. The United manager is a stubborn character and will not change “the philosophy” for anyone. He can still go on to win a trophy, and I think he will, but at the moment the football is below par of what is expected from a club that has witnesses the likes of George Best and Cristiano Ronaldo strut their stuff on the way to winning trophy after trophy.
Can United beat Wolfsburg?
If United fans ever needed the philosophy to come good – then it will be on Tuesday night against German side Wolfsburg. United needed to win the match to guarantee a place in the next round. The last time United played Wolfsburg, Michael Owen scored a hattrick to stun the home support in the Volkswagen Arena. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men went on to the quarter finals, to be eventually be knocked out – ironically – by Louis van Gaal’s Bayern Munich. The big questions this time around, is can the Dutchman conjurer up an attacking winning display – or will United go out with a whimper in another 0-0?
The German side are currently in sixth position in the Bundesliga, having lost 2-1 at home to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday – the home side are now winless in the last two matches. You would expect that United, without Wayne Rooney, can go to Germany and pick up a result – however, the previous matches against PSV Eindhoven and CSKA Moscow were extremely flat and resulted in United drawing at home against the Dutch side and narrowly grabbing a late victory against the Russian side. United’s French midfielder, Morgan Schneiderlin, believes his teammates need to approach the game as if it was the final itself – however, United simply need to take more of a risk than in previous matches in Europe. If van Gaal adopts a more attacking approach, United will progress, however a negative slip up with see the club enter the purgatory of European football – in the form of the Europa League.