Manchester United's Lack Of A Suitable System May Cost Them
Louis van Gaal has given Man United fans hope that a return to the Champions League is just around the corner, but the side’s promising position in the table seems to be a bit of a false pretence. For a manager with a reputation for tactical nous and astuteness, the Dutch master has thus far failed to paint a clear picture of what we can expect from his Man United sides. In fact, it’s all been rather abstract and confusing.
This is not to say that Man United aren’t capable of getting results because they clearly are, but I don’t think anyone can say with confidence where or when their next points will be gained or lost. Unpredictability can be an advantage, but it’s certainly not reliable and a vague form of reliability at the very least is pretty essential when it comes to finishing in the top four of the Premier League. Van Gaal’s side are up against sides such as Arsenal, Southampton, Tottenham and even Liverpool who all seem to have found formulas that work for them. Meanwhile, Man United, despite a mid-season run of form, still seem to be stuck in a state of disjointed limbo.
One factor that’s been synonymous with United this season has been injuries. Yes, they play a part and it’s hard to build a team and devise a system when key players are out. However, Arsenal had many of their key players out, not just this season but also for many preceding, yet have managed to not only retain an identity, but also diversify out of necessity (the latter took longer than it should’ve, mind). Man United may have had a lot of defensive injuries, but they didn’t exactly have a good defence to start with anyway - another reason for a lack of sympathy.
Following on from injuries is that whole thing about a new manager means a new training regime which in turn means time is needed for adaption and so on. Again, all very understandable, yet its equally very comparable. Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino, who are also very much in the race for Champions League football, are also newcomers to the Premier League. The pair had much less to spend than van Gaal, but they managed to (eventually in Pochettino’s case) identify strengths and weaknesses and build suitable, effective systems for their players.
Where other managers seem to be serving their teams by building around players, van Gaal seems to be serving himself by building around his own egotistical view of a winning formula. Away at West Ham, the Man United players looked lost and their was a distinct lack of communication and cohesion. There was no definition to their shape and individuals who should be taking games by the scruff of the neck were rendered all but useless. It was all topped off by their eventual decision to simply throw Fellaini on and hoof balls up to him, which is becoming somewhat of a depressing, degenerative pattern.
The stats may be on Man United’s side for now, but one can’t help but feel that they flatter to deceive. If van Gaal isn’t careful, his lack of a fluent, coherent and, most importantly, suitable style will cost his team dearly when it comes to the business end of the season. One thing that may give fans hope is that Man United still have experienced individuals, but football’s a team game and at the moment, there’s much better teams around them.