Archives For Louis Van Gaal

Dear Ed,

I was very lucky to get a ticket to the Cup Final, and had a wonderful time before, during and after – except I can’t shake off a lingering sadness over the way Louis Van Gaal was sacked. Sure you have the right to fire a manager you believe is taking the club in the wrong direction; sure you can plot who will replace him, that makes good business sense. But the months long saga and the not so coy dance with Jose Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes, coupled with “someone” leaking the news of Mourinho’s imminent appointment and therefore Van Gaal’s sacking about 50 minutes after the Cup Final ended smacks of bleak times ahead again, Ed.

Who will really run United now? You, Mourinho or Mendes?

Of course you’ll still be the money guy signing up the sponsors, because as you once said:

‘All we’re doing is selling diamonds. We don’t make the diamonds. The diamonds have been made by the 135-year history of the club and the players. We just set up the right structures to sell it.’

Got it.

But who takes care of that 135 year history and tradition of the club?

Listening to a radio interview on the ride home from Wembley Paddy Crerand gave both barrels to the BBC reporters who broke the story of Mourinho’s appointment. “Where did the story come from?” an indignant Paddy kept asking. Obviously the reporters couldn’t say: “Well Paddy, we got a call or a text, or a What’s App message, or whatever, from Mr.Mendes.” Paddy also pointed out he’d just walked out of the dressing room where: “I’ve just seen Ed Woodward with his arms around the manager, laughing and joking and celebrating the win.” Ed did you know the leak was about to happen, just like it did the last time you sacked a manager? Actually you are damned if you did and damned if you didn’t.  United are two for two during your reign. Both David Moyes and Van Gaal discovered via a call or text from their wife or friends they were about to be ex-United managers.

Is this the United way these days?

Eric Cantona gave an insightful interview to the Guardian on Tuesday in which he reflected on the marriage of business and football:

“Today you have almost all overseas owners, coming from all around the world. It depends how you direct the club. If you don’t have an American businessman, you will have an English businessman, If you don’t have an English businessman, you will have a Chinese businessman or a Malaysian businessman. They are all the same. It’s a business. The difference is that maybe an English businessman knows more about the soul of the club and the community.”

Is Cantona right Ed? Do you know more about the soul of the club and the community? Do you think the fans however much some of them disliked Van Gaal’s or Moyes’ football would agree with the way both found out they were about to be sacked?

Cantona also reflected on the Mourinho appointment:

“I love José Mourinho, but in terms of the type of football he plays I don’t think he is Manchester United, I love his personality, I love the passion he has for the game, his humour. He is very intelligent, he demands 100% of his players. And of course he wins things.

“But I don’t think it’s the type of football that the fans of Manchester United will love, even if they win. He can win with Manchester United. But do they expect that type of football, even if they win? I don’t think so.”

So here we are. Peek a boo.

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It’s likely Mourinho will be officially named by late Wednesday. The  transfer war chest is filled, new recruits will arrive. Zlatan? Matic? who knows who else because the list is endless. The media is ready, and where to begin? Let’s not forget the ready to be revved up feud with Pep Guardiola, and the not settled yet court case for unfair dismissal brought by Chelsea’s former team doctor Eva Carneiro. Mourinho may have to give evidence in that case when it begins June 6th. Now entering the dock the manager of Manchester United.

So in conclusion Ed, as noted, I had a great day watching the football at the final. The ongoing development of Rashford,  Martial, and Fosu-Mensa; the return of Shaw; and the retention of De Gea are all things to look forward to next season. I just wish I felt that 135 year old history of the club was in decent hands.

 

Rsshford

Oh to be from Wythenshawe and score the winner in the derby. United have got a centre forward. Marcus Rashford is the real deal. Forget the comparisons with Federico Macheda try a youthful Thomas Muller instead. Pace, courage, a willingness to run, forage, compete and harass; excellent touch; a finisher’s ice cold  instincts; all topped off by a boy next door personality. Whatever else happens this season United have reason to celebrate a local hero.

Rashford’s superb goal keeps United in with a chance of overhauling City for that precious Champions’ League spot. City were dreadful. Admittedly if Kompany was playing Rashford and Co would have had a more competitive and bruising afternoon. Without their captain’s drive and energy City looked tired and lethargic. The word out of the Etihad is that the senior management believes the squad isn’t fit enough. On this performance they aren’t. United won the key battles, the second balls, and dealt with any threat from Aguero.

Carrick and Van Gaal

It was a win for Van Gaal and the team to savour on a day when the respected Spanish newspaper El Pais said an option deal is agreed for Mourinho to take over in the summer. The option is interesting and clever. El Pais says if United don’t agree formal terms with Mourinho by May 1st there’s a  5 million pounds walk away penalty. If they keep Mourinho hanging until June 1st and then opt out, the compensation rises to 15 million pounds.

Smart thinking, because if United’s kids continue to blossom the club’s transfer priorities may change. What happens to Rashford, Fosu-Mensah, Borthwick-Jackson and a few more if Mourinho arrives? A new coaching staff brings its own ideas. Everything starts all over again.

With eight league games left, and the FA Cup replay with West Ham to come, United’s season is poised. Losing to Liverpool in the Europa Cup was a huge setback on many levels, but beating City away and closing the gap between the teams to a point will light up the dressing room.

It’s a huge ask for Rashford, 18, and Martial, 20, to deliver the 4th League spot and perhaps the FA Cup but it’s not impossible. Today’s team had balance, and dynamism. Players are returning from injury.  Rashford and Martial will get some help.  Rooney and Shaw aren’t far away, Young is back in training, and there’s now the two week international break when a lot of the squad will get a well earned rest. Don’t be surprised if United report Smalling has an injury and has to pull out of the England squad. Let’s hope Martial has a dose of French flu too.

Brilliant Payet free kick, rotten refereeing by Atkinson to have Payet available to take it after his dive to try and win a penalty. Terrific Martial goal, but maybe justice was done because Big Ass Schweinsteiger used all his smarts to take out the West Ham goalie who might have saved Martial’s effort but for the German’s well positioned bum. So United live to fight another day and cling to life in three competitions.

Now let’s try to put a little perspective on this grand opera of a season so far. There is a real possibility the Premiere League top 4 will be Leicester, Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool. No United, Chelsea, Arsenal or City. What big four? What pre-season predictions? Arsenal deservedly knocked out of the FA Cup at home by Watford, barring a miracle out of the Champions’ League by mid-week, are truly struggling in the league. City are out of the FA Cup, should qualify for the next round of the Champions’ league but are in serious danger of missing the top four. And in the past 7 days last year’s champions Chelsea went out of the Champions’ League and the FA Cup, and may finish just above half way in the league. Football bloody hell.

And while Arsenal’s fans bemoan Arsene Wenger, United’s fans and most of the media are unanimous in their support that Jose Mourinho should be announced as the next United manager asap.

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I just don’t get it. Mourinho must be responsible for Chelsea’s downfall this season,  is everyone forgetting Chelsea fired him? Take your pick. There’s the Dr.Eva Carneiro debacle, player disillusionment and revolt, Mourinho’s now traditional third season team failure and psycho-meltdown, or all of the above? There are rumors many of the current United squad want out if he’s appointed. The fans and media maybe mutinous but, again, for me he’s not the right guy.

My mantra for all season has been: take Van Gaal for another season, if only because of the stability he brings and because it’s very, very difficult to find someone who is going to instantly re-establish United as England’s dominant force.

Meanwhile Van Gaal and United enter probably the most pivotal two games of his tenure. An against the odds home win against Liverpool in the second leg of the Europa Cup on Thursday,  followed by a win at City on Sunday would pour an ocean of cold water on the crusade to sack the Prophet of Process. Two losses, however, should end all the speculation and force Woodward to put us all out of our misery by announcing the club’s plans for next year.

Man in the middle

It doesn’t get any worse. Most of us have just uncurled from the foetal position. Look at the faces and the headlines.

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Beaten by the team Fergie knocked off their perch. Beaten by high pressure, energetic Dortmund style Klopp football. Without De Gea it could have been a rout. Even though the Spaniard almost kept the score respectable, a very different United need to turn up next Thursday.

This isn’t a team that withstands the modern pressing game. Not enough players are confident on the ball. Not enough strikers have ice in their veins. Rashford’s fluffed chance after just 15 seconds was the only time United seriously threatened. It’s not fair to criticize him, an 18 year old 8 yards out from goal and in front of the Kop must be forgiven, but a mature top-class striker buries the cross from Depay, who along with a few others took the rest of the 89 minutes and 45 seconds off. After that Liverpool never stopped. Sure the penalty was iffy – Depay again – and there’s the terrible mistake by Carrick for the second, but if Liverpool did not win the game it would have been a travesty.

It’s quite possible by next Thursday night United will be out of two cups and with the slimmest chance of achieving what now looks like a miracle top 4 place in the league.

So what do you do? Take the Scholes, Ferdinand, rabid fan and media route? The “this is terrible..no one tackles..it’s the worst United team…not in my day…I’d have been embarrassed..anything but effing Liverpool…let’s get effing Mourinho…let’s get effing anybody…approach?.”

Or do we wait until next Thursday and hope that magic strikes in the next two home games?

The practical and sensible out there will quite rightly say no chance, and firmly point to the corporate machine running United as a global brand and business rather than a football club as the reason United are in the mess they are. But to be honest Liverpool too are American owned, and probably deeply envious of United’s global reach and money making capabilities.

In the end it’s not all about money. Real, Barcelona and Bayern have always paid big money for and to players. What’s needed at United is the kind of strength and long term view that saw Ferguson given almost four seasons to build a football battleship. Whether Van Gaal is the man to manage United isn’t the real question. Someone has to stand back from all the emotion and make some solid, sensible decisions. And sell Depay too :).

 

 

 

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It’s not like him, but it was dumb and when he writes his weekly blog Juan Mata will be the first to admit it (which he does). Who knows if United would have won without him but once Mata was sent off United never looked like getting anything out of the game. Earlier Liverpool got lucky after being a man down to win with that last second no-penalty, and yesterday Arsenal battled all the way for a draw, but United never got going.

In the chase for the 4th spot the eventual price of the red card, could be very, very costly. It was Mata’s first ever red and Van Gaal defended his player.

“What can I say when you send off a player like Mata? I have asked him if it’s his first red card and he said yes.

“When you give the first and second yellow within minutes, you can do it according the rules, but I think the referee has to know the person doing it.

“I don’t think Mata has ever had bad tackles and something like that. Most referees show that [discretion].

“You know the first one is a stupid yellow card and then you have to be aware the referee can give a second yellow card.

“A referee has to decide within one second but when you know the player, Mata never hurts a player.

Van Gaal now has to pick the team up before Liverpool in the Europa Cup on Thursday, West Ham in the FA Cup next Sunday, Liverpool again in the return Europa leg and City in the league the following Sunday. Mata is suspended against West Ham.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 11.32.15 AMEven before today every game until the end of the season was a cup final. A loss doesn’t change that. Realistically United can lose one more match in the league and maybe draw another, away games at City and Tottenham emphasize the scale of the task.

Meanwhile Sunday’s papers carried speculation that Mourinho believes Ryan Giggs is the next United manager. It’s a gamble for the club, but in the end if United believe in the current crop of kids it may be one worth taking.

 

 

Mata strike

The wonderful Juan Mata strike that beat a very unlucky Watford,  not only extended United’s winning streak to 4 games but in the end poses a larger question.  Are we sure we want to replace Van Gaal with Mourinho people? Really, really sure?

What will happen to Marcus Rashford, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, not to mention a bunch of other promising kids . Axel Tuanzenebe, Ro-Shaun Williams, Callum Gribbin, Devonte Williams and Angel Gomes are all waiting in the wings. Admittedly they are young, raw, and may never make it, but with Mourinho in charge we won’t find out. With Van Gaal we will. Look at the track records. Mourinho will team with Mendes and spend a fortune. The kids will wither on the vine. Van Gaal’s approach is always to give youth its chance.

So the question is given the exuberance and promise of the past 10 days do we stick or twist? If Van Gaal is to keep his job and send Jose looking for another one, he has to realize at least 5 of these 6 targets .

  1. Qualify for Europe – either via the Europa League or finishing in the top 4
  2. Win a Cup, doesn’t matter which one FA or Europa
  3. Beat City at The Etihad
  4. Finish higher than City in the league
  5. Win every home game
  6. Beat Liverpool in the Europa Cup

Wednesday once again simultaneously put the Premiership in both the washing machine and the spin dryer. With Arsenal, City and Tottenham’s losing, United are definitely back in with a chance of the top 4. There is a daunting fixture list in all competitions. Liverpool in the Europa, West Ham in the FA Cup, and realistically United have the toughest schedule of all the top 6 in the remaining league fixtures. However players are coming back, and youth is being given its chance. The glass is half full. The dressing room is reported to be happy.

This week I had to defend Van Gaal against a friend who argued he has done a terrible job. He pointed at the amount of money spent; the boring football; the failure in the Champions League; and the terrible December against the likes of Bournemouth and Stoke. All valid points.

However given the injuries and the necessary rebuilding I think it’s simple. Van Gaal has done a good job.

 

 

GettyImages-512312020-1024x695The real FC Midtjylland turned up at Old Trafford and were duly despatched by a United mix of teenage prospects, reserves and senior pros on a night local boy Marcus Rashford will never forget, and Memphis DePay found a level of opposition he could dominate. Seventeen players are now on the injured list, but the deputies done well. Rashford 18,  and left back Joe Riley, 19, were both making their European debuts. Rashford, born and raised in Wythenshawe, has been tipped for great things for a couple of years and City, Chelsea and Arsenal have all tried to lure him away. Until this season he’s played as a second striker or in the “hole”,  but two finely taken goals demonstrated why United think his future is as a centre forward. He showed touch, tenacity and pace.

Simultaneously the much maligned Memphis – and I’ve maligned him more than most – had his best game as a United player. Two back heel nutmegs, some genuine effort and a terrific goal highlighted an all around night of fun and frivolity from the Rolls Royce driving Nani clone. Now let’s see if he can do the same against Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin on Sunday.

The Arsenal game looms as the final test in yet another dramatic week in Unitedom. Somehow Rashford’s exploits have probably pushed Van Gaal’s exit/sacking soap opera off the back pages tomorrow, but’s it’s been quite the week on Twitter, in the media,  and the forums. The guys behind the Red Issue forum put together their conspiracy theory as a Twitter timeline.

Skulduggery

It’s 23 slides of spectacular reading.

So now for Sunday and Arsenal and a very different test. Beating Shrewsbury and FC Midtjylland is one thing, but let’s remember Arsenal gave Barcelona a good run for their money this week. Realistically the United treatment room door has to open wide if there is to be any chance on Sunday. De Gea, Martial, Smalling,  all need to be fit. Rojo needs to start. Jones needs a mind meld with Lazarus.

Tonight was great and uplifting. It’s a big ask for Rashford and Riley to do as well again.