‘Attack, attack, attack!’ and yet they did not succeed. Injuries, confusion and clearly a style that does not suit the squad that was allegedly assembled on the basis of suitability to this style of football; these are just some of the factors contributing to the relentless misery that seems to be looming large at Old Trafford. In many ways, Chelsea’s current misfortune, and the media distraction that comes with it, is somewhat comforting to Louis van Gaal and his team, although last night’s exit from the Champions League is no easy feature to whitewash.
United’s inability to beat an opponent that will find it hard to replicate last season’s Bundesliga form, and will struggle to go much further in Europe’s prime competition, is truly astonishing. As Paul Scholes pointed out correctly, this is a squad that was put together for an investment north of £250 million and had more than a year to get used to its manager’s philosophy. As such, none of the excuses, based around the notion that managers need time in particular, have any validity at this stage. Yes, Sir Alex Ferguson may have needed four years before he succeeded. Yes, United may only be three points off the top of the table. And yes, injuries may have plagued the team this season. Nevertheless, to see such an expensive team, part of a club with a long history of attacking football, struggle at both ends of the pitch is rather disappointing.
Many have pointed out the lack of urgency in United’s game and many have spoken about the displeasure of watching a side packed with quality pass the ball side-to-side. These are only some of LVG’s effects on this team. Unfortunately, the manager no longer has the luxury of emphasising the team’s comfortable position in the context of the season, as an early Champions League exit is a clear indication of problems, whatever they may be. It is undeniable that a combination of Louis van Gaal and this Manchester United squad does not deliver any level of excitement. So what next?
A lot of people might point out Gary Neville’s appointment at Valencia as a sign of Manchester United’s old guard becoming more popular on the football management scene. Although Peter Lim, Valencia’s owner, seems to be an investor with little football knowledge and a bit crazy, to be frank, Neville will have the opportunity to establish himself as one of Europe’s top managers at one of the continent’s best known clubs. If Neville succeeds, he will inevitably be linked to a role at Old Trafford. In many ways, the United legend’s potential success might pile even more pressure on van Gaal. The Old Trafford faithful will surely keep an eye on Neville’s development.
In addition to this, Neville’s appointment might prompt United supporters to feel as though, the club could give current assistant manager Ryan Giggs a shot at leading the team right now, rather than in due time. Van Gaal’s understudy has arguably gained more management experience than his former teammate Neville already, and the faith Valencia have shown in an untested manager will certainly be desired by some fans at Old Trafford.
Without paying too much attention to the general management discussion at Old Trafford, the unfortunate reality is that van Gaal has done very little to convince fans of his long list of credentials. Although, the ship damaged by David Moyes has been somewhat steadied, the team have underwhelmed to a significant effect. It almost seems as though the fans desire a show of power and appreciate great football more than points on the board.
The next few months at Old Trafford will be particularly intriguing, especially because events at the Mestalla will play a strangely important role. United’s exit at the hands of German minnows VfL Wolfsburg might turn out to be blip, but might ultimately change the fortunes of a Dutch, an English and a Welsh man in months to come.