Is Louis Van Gaal Falling Into The Same Traps At Manchester United?


Can a leopard really change its spots?

Well in the case of Manchester United’s boss Louis van Gaal, it doesn’t look like it.

Without doubt the Dutchman’s methods work up to a point and they usually gain a certain amount of success.

But then the legendary manager seems to come undone by making the same mistakes, although he’d never admit that they’re mistakes in the first place.

You’ll be hard pushed to find a manager as stubborn as the Amsterdam native.

It’s only when all else has failed that Van Gaaln will look to change his tactics or use a player that he doesn’t really fancy. Ironically he will then love the acclaim, if the enforced change works, and he’ll let you believe it was all part of the masterplan. But he will soon return to type when he believes he can get away with it.

The sixty-four year old also seems to live off tension and conflict, especially with members of his own team.

That can spark a response from his squad but the more you use that particular strategy they more it stops working in your favour.

Louis has a long history of falling out with players. His time in charge at Old Trafford has been no different, in fact it seems to be getting steadily worse.

Take the Victor Valdes situation for example.

The goalkeeper is now thirty-three and has won all there is to win at both club and international level. Yet he is now treated like an outcast at United’s Carrington training complex.

Supposedly the veteran questioned the merits in himself playing regularly for the Utd reserves and that was enough for Van Gaal to dump the keeper out of the first team squad. See you should never question a Van Gaal ruling or decision.

The story goes that Valdes turned up to the training ground to find that his belongs had been moved out for the first-team dressing room and he was to train by himself or with the youngsters.

That kind of treatment doesn’t go do well with the rest of the team. Valdes is a well liked guy and a respected teammate. The Spanish contingent (Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and David De Gea) have all had run-ins with the iron-minded coach.

His treatment of Valdes also seemed to cost his side the of signing of Pedro, who went on to sign for rivals Chelsea.

The Spanish international forward would say this in regards of the Valdes/Van Gaal situation:

“It’s true that I don’t like that treatment for my colleagues, especially for Victor, who has been a reference as a team-mate and as a professional,”

That kind of snub, which can be directly attributed to Van Gaal’s management style looks extremely bad for a club the stature of Man United.

Then there was the failure to get the best out of Angel Di Maria. The winger had come off the back of a superb year with Real Madrid and Argentina, when he joined United last summer in a British record £59.7m deal.

Yet Van Gaal decided to play Di Maria in almost every position instead of making him a king on the wing for a prolonged period of time. The Argentine failed to shine in the more central role and seemed confused as to what was expected of him at Old Trafford.

So in the end Manchester United cut their losses and sold him to ligue 1 champions PSG for £44m, making a £15.7m loss!

Once the ink dried in Di Maria’s new PSG contract he said this about his former manager:

“There came a time when I did not have a good relationship with Van Gaal and that influences much in a player’s mind.”

Nothing about the club or his teammates, just the manager.

Javier Hernandez offered similar sentiments:

‘I want to go back to feeling important and happy,’

‘I want to find happiness.’

‘Bayer made me feel important and loved and coming here was not a difficult decision to make. They made me feel wanted.’

I think the Mexican striker has hit quite a few nails on the head with his comments. A lot of players just don’t feel happy when working under Van Gaal. They also don’t feel wanted, as once the Dutch gaffer makes up his mind about a player he then forgets about the ones that he has no vision for.

Even his former international team captain Robin van Persie couldn’t hack it when Van Gaal had decided he was no longer of use to him or his team. It is extremely cold for quite a few at Carrington as they walk past their manager, just ask Marcos Rojo.

The treatment of fan favourite and well liked teammate Rafael, looks to be the one that has irked even the most loyal of Van Gaal supporters in the dressing room. Reports suggest that senior stars Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick had a meeting with the gaffer to explain that team morale wasn’t at it highest.

This problem to relate or attempt to understand or reconnect with players has followed the manager around like a bad smell.

Just look at these quotes from Hristo Stoichkov and Franck Ribery. Clearly they have no love for the disciplinarian coach.

The Bulgarian hero said:

“I have no respect for him, he’s scum.”

Whilst French star Ribery stated:

“The first contact with him was already poisoned. As a professional you lose your trust. He does great things on the pitch but the coach Van Gaal was a bad man. Our relationship was crushed.” 

Another problem that as a coach, Van Gaal seems to continually find himself in, is getting players to believe in his strict training methods.

They becoming boring and very tactical based. This again causes unrest in the team, especially if they have to do monotonous training drills over and over again!

Repetition of the same old passing routines just become the bane of creative talents lives.

The fact that Van Gaal seems to really grate against the individually more gifted players is no coincidence. He mistrusts them and doesn’t believe they can work well within his strict team unit and hard working ethos.

But a club like United have always cherished that star who can offer that something special that can turn a game like an Eric Cantona, a George Best or a Cristiano Ronaldo. It is near on impossible to think that those types of player would be easily suited to a Van Gaal team.

That hampers the clubs tactics also, with Van Gaal happy to sit back and keep the ball. Not a bad tactic if all is going swimmingly at a club but when you are chasing a goal it becomes ridiculous.

Then you get the fans at Old Trafford chanting (almost imploring) ‘Attack!’ at their own players. That kind of insubordination will rankle with the tough, stubborn Louis but there is nothing he can do. The fans can see his tactics are not working and want to see more of the old United way with an attacking threat and some width in their play.

The side are still making odd, silly mistakes in games and at times can’t exact their authority against opponents like Swansea City. That is acceptable for a team still finding it’s way under a new boss but this United squad are now embarking on their second season and should be challenging for big honours this term.

That still looks unlikely.

When the summer transfer window slammed shut at the start of this month, you looked at this Man United side and cannot help but see the gaps in their squad. The transfer policy since Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013 has been erratic to say the least.

Listen things have improved since Van Gaal took-over last summer but Manchester United are still far from the finished article as far as I am concerned.

The strains and complaints that come with having the Dutchman in charge have already arrived and the dissenting voice will only get louder if things don’t improve and the team can’t start to challenge seriously for titles.

Can that be done this year? I really don’t know, I’m unconvinced.

On a brighter note to end on…

Louis Van Gaal usually leaves a team with extremely strong foundations and the next manager inherits a decent squad who just need to be loved again.

So that could mean that in 2017 (or perhaps earlier) that Ryan Giggs could takeover and head straight back to the top!


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