Month: January 2016

Manchester United fans will think fondly of Louis van Gaal…in about five years time

 

Manchester United’s 1-0 home humbling at the hands of Southampton was the latest in a long line of disappointments for the club that were once so dominant in England and it could lead to the departure of Louis van Gaal, but the Dutchman has sewn some seeds for future successes.

Since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 United have been a shadow of the sort of teams that had seen them win 13 of the previous 21 possible Premier League titles under the stewardship of the Scotsman. David Moyes’ appointment on the recommendation of Ferguson turned out to be an unmitigated disaster and on-the-pitch van Gaal has not been streaks ahead much to the bemusement and downright annoyance of the fans.

As a result of Saturday’s slip against the Saints at Old Trafford, United sit in fifth with 37 points from 23 games. After 23 matches in the Moyes season the Red Devils were seventh but had three more points.

Despite results though it is not as doom and gloom around Greater Manchester as it times it may seem – there are some reasons to think the grass is greener on the other side at the very least.

Van Gaal has rightly been on the end of vitriol for his patient and frankly boring football that has seen the club score a measly 12 home goals in the league all season and has in the past led to British record signing Angel di Maria leave England just one year after joining due to being restricted under the ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager’s rigid system that had the Argentine playing like he was on shackles just a matter of months after he helped guide Argentina to a World Cup final.

Said system though has led to an improvement in the team’s defence.

Accidentally calling Chris Smalling “Mike” in a press conference was not the only change of identity van Gaal instilled in the centre back as the 26-year-old has been transformed into one of the finest centre halves in the league and one of the leaders of the squad.

Best of Friends: Chris Smalling is one of few to improve under van Gaal

Best of Friends: Chris Smalling is one of few to improve under van Gaal

In addition to this, ‘LvG’ has signed a whole host of young talent that, while needs nurturing, could make United a real force in the space of the next five years.

Luke Shaw, Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial have all signed on the dotted line from Southampton, PSV Eindhoven and AS Monaco respectively over the last two years and have all been tipped to be real stars of the not too distant future. Shaw in particular already looked like the real deal before he suffered a sickening leg break in the Champions League clash at PSV that still keeps him sidelined while Martial was given the 2015 Golden Boy award for the hottest young prospect in Europe.

Another signing in Daley Blind has shown that he could be the man that can be the deep-lying playmaker they have craved since the gradual decline of Michael Carrick and at 25 he still has plenty of years left in him, as does Morgan Schneiderlin who has enjoyed a few successful years in the Premier League already.

It has been youth that has always been at the forefront of van Gaal’s sometimes infamous philosophy though. Jesse Lingard, Paddy McNair, Michael Keane, Tom Thorpe, Tyler Blackett, Andreas Pereira and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have all been given their senior debuts during the two-year tenure.

James Wilson has been sent  out on-loan to Championship outfit Brighton and Hove Albion and he is blossoming on the South Coast as he continues his development while Adnan Januzaj, who endured a disappointing time away at Dortmund, was recalled from his loan to the Bundesliga in early January and was introduced into the first-team fold again straight away against Southampton, albeit as a second-half substitute.

If results do not rapidly improve then van Gaal’s time at Manchester United will surely be up, if it is not already, and his sacking would be justified, but if past glories return to the Theatre of Dreams in the next few years then supporters will do well to remember where some it all began.

 

Felipe Anderson to Manchester United is not without its risks

Manchester United’s fans are crying out for new blood as a result of poor performances and tedious displays currently being seen at Old Trafford, but one target Felipe Anderson probably will not solve any problems.

There are of course obvious bonuses to the potential arrival of Anderson, which is reported to be pretty close to being done during this January window, but the signing carries more negatives than positives.

One reason for optimism for the United faithful would be the addition of more offensive talent that the Red Devils undoubtedly need as almost unbelievably they are the lowest scorers at home out of the entire 92 clubs in the English Football League with a painfully low 15 goals from 10 games.

Anderson, 22, is also touted as one of the most promising young talents in Europe, and therefore would add to an ever-increasingly youthful United side with Luke Shaw, Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial who have also been given the ‘wonderkid’ label. Martial has just been crowned the 2015 Golden Boy – the best young talent in Europe. Shaw and Adnan Januzaj (on-loan at Borussia Dortmund from United) were also on the 40-man shortlist.

Furthermore, Louis van Gaal’s side are without any out-and-out wingers with any real class. Depay as mentioned has a promising future but is as yet struggling to adapt to the Premier League since his £25 million move from PSV in the summer, Ashley Young is currently being deployed as a full-back, Martial is used as a left winger but he prefers to be played as a centre forward while Juan Mata is more of a number 10 and Antonio Valencia has never been a ‘top drawer’ player.

Worth the risk? Should United welcome Anderson with open arms?

Should United welcome Anderson with open arms?

Lazio’s Anderson is an attractive prospect to United due to their aforementioned struggle to score, but van Gaal’s tactics – the main reason the club have worries in-front of goal – will restrict the Brazilian winger.

Angel di Maria is van Gaal’s biggest signing to date in terms of price tag – a British record £59.7 million, but he was sold just a year later to Paris Saint Germain for £44 million.

Di Maria was one of the finest talents in the world when he joined from Real Madrid and he was restricted by van Gaal’s rigid system. Anderson has a lot more nurturing to go yet.

Players that land on British shores from Serie A tend to struggle too.

Once upon a time the likes of Gianfranco Zola, Marcel Desailly, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp were impressing in England after moving from Italy but nowadays we see a generation of players who come from the typically defence orientated Italian league and fail to keep up with the pace and rigour of the Premier League.

In the last 15 years players such as Juan Sebastian Veron, Andriy Shevchenko, Adrian Mutu, Juan Cuadrado, Erik Lamela, Mario Balotelli (twice), and Stevan Jovetic have failed to make any sort of impact.

Not only this, but Anderson is not exactly setting the world alight at current club Lazio.

He has scored four goals, made just one assist, contributed only 11 key passes and created a minuscule 12 chances. Anderson outdoes Depay at all of these, but only just, and that is a player used to a league compared to one who has been described as a ‘flop’ six months into their Manchester United career.

Anderson is an attractive option for United fans, but he might not be the right one yet.