TLE The London Economic

Van Gaal: Old Dog, New Tactics?

By Billy Stephens  @BillyLaughs  @TLE_Sport

In their last two games, against Chelsea and Swansea City, Manchester United have shown much more attacking intent than previously seen under Louis van Gaal this season.  The Dutchman is seemingly attempting to adapt his tactical approach to be more like the traditional style of play expected by the Old Trafford faithful.

Van Gaal’s style of football is usually patient, possession-based and low risk.  This is emphasised by Manchester United having kept 9 clean sheets in the league this season.  However, 5 of those matches ended in 0-0 draws which isn’t ruthless enough for title contenders.  Man United’s traditional style is fast, attacking football featuring mazy runs, incisive passing and flamboyant skill, all of which carry an element of risk.  Their styles don’t match and, although he’s a quality manager, van Gaal probably shouldn’t have been hired in the first place.

After 8 games without a win, Manchester United overcame a resolute Swansea City side in a 2-1 home victory on Saturday.  In the first half the Red Devils were as unimpressive as they had been during their recent poor run, but in the second, like in their game against Chelsea, we saw glimpses of the old, attacking United.

One Swallow doesn’t make a summer however, and it will be interesting to see if van Gaal is able to coach his team in a philosophy and style with which he may not necessarily be comfortable.  I’ll be very impressed if he can alter his tactical style and be successful; it’s a huge ask and I don’t see van Gaal as the long term solution for Man United.

Outside Old Trafford, before Manchester United’s 0-0 stalemate with Chelsea, there were Man United scarves on sale emblazoned with Jose Mourinho’s name and face.  The seller was broadly mocked on social media and Paul Scholes summed up the mood when he commented on BT Sport “I’m not quite sure what that clown was doing.”

Nonetheless, Mourinho continues to be linked to the Man United job. So would clubless Jose be the perfect fit for United?  The short answer is ‘no’.

Mourinho literally went to the van Gaal school of management and although ‘The Special One’ has had more success than his former mentor in recent seasons (present season excluded), his style is still too risk averse for the United fans.  What Manchester United really need is someone who went to the school of Sir Alex Ferguson and in assistant manager Ryan Giggs they have exactly that.

Louis van Gaal himself tipped Giggs as a potential successor as reported by BBC Sport and Sky Sports back in April.  The fans would most likely be more patient with Man United legend and give him time to build a team in the traditional United philosophy.

I get the feeling that the United board would like to keep Louis van Gaal at the helm at least until the end of the season, but if United fail to qualify for the Champion’s League I think they and van Gaal will part company.  In that instance, Giggs would be the obvious choice for the job.

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