Man Utd lose to Middlesboro on penalties, October 28th: Reading between the lines

October 29, 2015

Van GaalA very bad night at the office, but it was the same for Chelsea and Arsenal the night before. This is isn’t an apology for the team but a realistic appraisal. Do we really think Van Gaal would set the team up to play as they are if he thought he had other options? The first maxim in football is: You are only as good your players. Van Gaal hasn’t got box to box midfielders, or widemen who offer pace and penetration. There isn’t Beckham and Giggs, Scholes, Keane, and Ronaldo. If there were the team would be more vibrant and vigorous. So can we all get real? Enough of the anguish? Paul Scholes, who’s as sharp and trenchant off the pitch as he was on it, was his usual blunt self after the match.

“It’s a team you wouldn’t want to play against and it’s probably a team you wouldn’t want to play in either.

There’s a lack of risk and creativity. It seems he doesn’t want players to beat men and score goals – it’s not a team I would have enjoyed playing in.

Ruud van Nistelrooy, Teddy Sheringham, Andy Cole couldn’t play in this team.

You don’t get crosses in the box, midfielders looking for runs. I think it’s a very difficult team to be a centre forward in.”

Which of course leads to the debate about Rooney. I’ve been arguing for weeks now that Rooney is having a mare not because he’s suddenly lost his talent but that he has to play on his own without support. More from Scholes on that:

“I was at the Manchester derby and I watched him for the first 20 minutes, His movement was brilliant, but when he’s playing in that team there’s nobody prepared to pass to him. You’d be tearing your hair out.”

This is a team which is curently built not to lose,. Van Gaal obviously believes he doesn’t have the right mix of players to play a more up tempo, purposeful style, because the risk is too great. First of all he has to win, and the way he’s chosen is to be compact, careful and withdrawn. The one disagreement I have with Scholes is that he appears to think it’s purely tactics rather than talent which is determining United’s style.

So no League Cup this year, a few midweek nights off, but don’t expect this team to change soon. If you want success we have to be prepared to go through the very painful process of rebuilding and recruiting. Martial is proof that great young talent is very, very expensive. Memphis/Depay, Wilson, Lingard, and Pereira, are proof that other younger players have a long way to go. Meanwhile Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Smalling, Jones and De Gea, are foremost in protecting the ability to build a  top 4 challenge.