I had a friend recently say, “I’m never watching football again, just going to stick to cricket and rugby”. That was right before Robin Van Persie scored from a rebounded shot against Chelsea to make the score 1-1 in the dying seconds. He did recant what he said, almost immediately, and he is still watching football, unsurprisingly. Yet for many a Manchester United fan, the start they have made to the season doesn’t really seem to be adequate.
Like the archetypical weathered horse, Boxer, the days of slugging away for a league title seems to have left its mark and United seem destined for the glue factory. Manchester United have performed worse in their opening eleven games under Louis Van Gaal than under David Moyes. Well that’s what the points tell us.
However, under LVG there is a growing flair and persistence in how the players play the game. There is an atmosphere, seen during the games that the fans are willing to let poor results by as long as attacking football is seen. Yet does LVG deserve a greater length of time managing if he’s doing worse than David Moyes?
Football, as is well said, is cyclical. One team’s decade of glory can give way to dust, ash, and decay in a season. This came to exemplify the David Moyes tenure at Manchester United. A fellow of Glasgow who just could not cut it had replaced the omnipotent beacon of Govan light, the one who had provided steel and Stalinist control. And trophies, lots and lots of trophies. We only have to look at the language used by Moyes to see that, he was linguistically poor with the media; feebleness in language can very quickly turn into a feebleness on the pitch.
“I don’t know what we have to do to win”. This was Moyes’ mantra. It does not read well at all. Moyes was not inspirational, invigorating, or illuminating. His media cameos were all filled with language about “trying” to win, or attempting to make the game “difficult” for the opponents. He said this about Newcastle when they came to Old Trafford. Moyes instilled negativity within the club’s psyche. There is a tale that he showed Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand a clip of Phil Jagielka defending and telling them that this was the way to defend, this was the way to go about things. This is akin to giving Shakespeare a copy of a Dan Brown novel and telling him that that’s how to write. I have nothing against a new manager implicating a new philosophy onto a team, that was ageing, but it has to come off.
Here’s where we come to Louis Van Gaal. He’s made a weaker start to the season in accumulation of points. And the three months he harked on about at the start of his tenure, like some Hare Krishna chant, seems rather false at this moment of time. Moreover, there has been statistic analysis that show United lack incisive passing within the eighteen yard box. He has also admitted feeling “lousy” at United’s recent results. This all looks very David Moyes if you’re a Manchester United fan.
However, LVG is a strong and proven manager. A man who once dropped his trousers in front of the Bayern Munich dressing room to show he had “balls.” And rather than look at points acquired and statistical analysis, which sadly doesn’t reflect the atmosphere around a team, there are positives in the team performance, emphasis on team. You had the late goal against Chelsea, the spirited performance against Manchester City, against these teams last season the Moyes squad seemed devoid of fighting spirit. LVG has taken a team and transformed it, totally overhauled it; we are in a point of metamorphosis. In Di Maria’s first game there was a point when he passed to Rooney, ran past him, cutting the defenders apart, and rather than receive the second ball from El Capitan, Rooney turned and got disposed. Apart from that small part of decision-making, the move was almost perfect. There are the glimpses of light, LVG needs to time to nurture these specks of light.
And that’s the crux of the argument. You can see persistence with MUFC, there is no collapse, there is change, and it looks to improve upon a few years of decay. Whether this is a Kafka metamorphosis that turns into a horrible nightmare remains to be seen. But if LVG can create attacking football, then I think that brows shouldn’t be furrowed in frustration yet.