Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United ground out a third successive 1-0 victory before the Old Trafford faithful this weekend to notch their fifth home league win on the trot.
The streak is the longest of the season, and most teams would be delighted by such a run of form.
Here’s why I’m not impressed – and you shouldn’t be either.
- Since when did packing midfield against relegation fodder become the ‘United Way’? Van Gaal insists on negative tactics at home, constantly deploying two holding midfielders when one would likely do the trick. The only opponent we’ve faced during the streak who likely merits this respect was Arsenal – and they still scored two.
- The negative tactics have seen us win only 10 at home so far [compared to 14 wins in the last campaign]. And our goals for are also way down this season [21 so far compared to 41 in 2014/15]. Those dropped points would see us in second place in the Premiership.
- The focus on possession and defence was supposed to tighten things up and see results improve [and to be fair, we are currently second in goals allowed]. Instead, we are on track to concede only one goal less this year. Combine this with the decrease in scoring [on track for 16 goals fewer] and we will likely finish on 63 points – the lowest total in the post-Fergie era.
- Finally, our projected goals for total this season is 46. Our previous low in the Premiership era was 58 in the 2004/05 campaign. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1989/90 to see a similar total during the early Fergie years. We finished 13th in 89/90.
So, while I’m glad of recent results – I’m not satisfied, either. And no, I don’t think Louis van Gaal is deserving of another year in charge.
While we may get through to the FA Cup final – or even better win our first since 2004 – we are not the kind of team that should be happy with finishing outside of the Champions League places and cobbling together a nice cup run.
What we should be doing is playing incisive, attacking football. The kind that has opposing sides terrified to come to Old Trafford. The kind that sees wave after wave of red attacks keeping our opposition pinned back. And the kind that showcases inventiveness, flair and courage going forward – not sideways and backwards football.
Van Gaal has proven that he will coach these attacking qualities out of players, replacing them with doubt and a lack of confidence. And what we get left with as supporters are some very good performers who are not allowed to do what they do best.
Thankfully, he hasn’t had long enough with the likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford to completely blunt their attacking instincts, and here’s hoping he won’t have the chance.
So, hopefully, as spring gives way to summer and we get the distraction of Euro 2016 – United will have a new manager in place, will continue to add quality signings where they are needed and begin the long road back to playing the ‘United Way’ – and thus getting back to the business of winning more titles.