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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

United Corner- Why Louis Van Gaal should NOT be compared with David Moyes (January 14th)

United Corner- Why Louis Van Gaal should NOT be compared with David Moyes (January 2015)

You can just imagine the writer sitting in a darkened office as he put together the statistics and results that would need to occur in the coming weeks before he could present the statement to Louis Van Gaal in a press conference.

'Manchester United have the same number of points after the same number of games as David Moyes did twelve months ago AND with one fewer goal to boot'.

One of the least surprising moments of the season saw Louis Van Gaal give the statement short shrift and I have to agree with the Dutchman on this occasion.

So why do I think it's a wind up attempt to compare this season to last?

For starters I am pretty sure the journalist who presented that statement to Van Gaal failed to mention that Manchester United had already been knocked out of the FA Cup thanks to a surprising 1-2 home defeat against Swansea in the Third Round, while they were days away from exiting the League Cup in the Semi Final stage on a penalty shoot-out against Sunderland.

Or the fact that Manchester United had moved up to 7th in the Premier League table and were 4 points behind the top four with things to get worse in the coming weeks.

United were going to go on and win 1 of their next 5 League games and lose 2 of the next 3 games at Chelsea and Stoke City while also failing to beat Fulham, who would later be relegated, at Old Trafford in that most frustrating of 2-2 draws. That run of games would leave Manchester United 11 points behind Liverpool in 4th place and I would be surprised if Louis Van Gaal sees his side pick up just 5 points from their next five games against Queens Park Rangers, Leicester City, West Ham United, Burnley and Swansea.

Yes, some will point out that Manchester United were still in the Champions League, but that is hardly going to be something Louis Van Gaal can be blamed for as that was the fate left to him by his predecessor.

A lot of journalists have also been making a note of the money that Louis Van Gaal has spent in turning around the fortunes of Manchester United without it reflecting on the points differential from twelve months ago. One of the main 'spokesmen' for this kind of thinking is Richard Keys, someone who happens to be close to David Moyes, who has 'tweeted' out the lack of funds that the previous manager had been afforded compared with Van Gaal.

That seems to ignore the almost £80 million that Moyes spent on Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata only to play the diminutive Spaniard on the right or left wing in a 4-4-2 formation that clearly wasn't the right position for him which was quickly identified by Van Gaal when he walked through the doors at Old Trafford.

David Moyes was also seemingly not confident enough to make the necessary changes to shape the squad to his liking- it has been stated in the last few days that Moyes wanted to try and employ Wayne Rooney in midfield, but was worried about what people would think and write, while he didn't want to make the changes to squad he felt was needed in case he was accused of breaking up a title winning squad.

That lack of belief was never going to cut it at Manchester United and Louis Van Gaal is clearly unconcerned about what people think of him- some of the older, experienced figures left in the summer, while I don't know too many fans that would have been that disappointed with the likes of Tom Cleverley, Nani, Alexander Buttner and Bebe being moved on. I liked Danny Welbeck but can understand why he was allowed to leave, although perhaps not to a rival like Arsenal, while I wasn't joining the twitterati who seemed to love Shinji Kagawa as I just didn't think he was good enough.

Unlike Moyes, Louis Van Gaal couldn't care less what people think in the media and what they are going to write about him because his 'philosophy' overrules everything. And upsetting players with huge egos is just part of the issue when it comes to shaping the team into performing to the level he expects.

Philosophy is the word that has been dominant in the press conferences throughout the season and is another marked difference from what David Moyes was doing in his last year. No longer are Manchester United 'going to make it difficult' for visitors like Newcastle United and Everton but now this is a team that goes out expecting to win those games at Old Trafford.

The 2-2 draw against Fulham that I already mentioned was mind boggling with the amount of crosses United threw in that game with almost no other idea as to how to break down that team. It was clearly not a tactic that was working, but Moyes persisted with it to the point of complete frustration for the fans and the players and there didn't seem to be a clear plan in place for Manchester United to win games.

You can't say that about Louis Van Gaal's Manchester United with the manager not afraid to change the system when things were not going right, most recently in the game at Yeovil Town in the FA Cup Third Round. Van Gaal expects his teams to play in a certain manner, but he is unafraid to ruffle a few feathers if it means getting the rest of the troops on board with his way of thinking and the change in formation and style of play shows a manager willing to get the best out of what he has and implement his changes during training sessions through the season.

The willingness to change when things are not happening in the manner expected and the overall style of football is also of complete contrast to last season. Visiting Old Trafford was something of a crap shoot for fans under David Moyes in terms of results, but it was also the frustrating football that showed little sign of what the manager intended to do to improve things going forward which saw him lose much of the support of the fans.

Those in the ground generally stuck by Moyes as far as possible, but there won't have been too many that would have been disappointed to see him go.

On the other hand, games at Old Trafford in particular have been very positive for the fans for the most part- there is clearly signs that Manchester United are once again making the ground something of a fortress and the performances have generally been impressive at this stadium bar the losses to Swansea and Southampton.

Some have pointed to the poor defensive displays, but that was to be expected after the changes that Van Gaal has implemented and is an obvious point of investment over the coming calendar year. There have been two defeats at home this season, but United lost four times at Old Trafford by this point last season and that includes those defeats to Everton and Newcastle United when Moyes had put that element of doubt into his own players minds before those games kicked off.

It can't be denied that the general feeling for Manchester United fans is much more positive than it was under David Moyes and there aren't the glaring split between supporters that weren't convinced the former Everton manager was good enough for the top job at Old Trafford. Louis Van Gaal's reputation is affording him more time, but I can't be unhappy about that because this is a transitional point of this club's history as the Dutchman shapes the squad to his liking.

Finishing in the top four was the main goal for this season and Van Gaal is still very much in line to achieve that and most of the media won't mention the fact that most supporters would have been happy with that from David Moyes last season.

The difference was of course the gap between United and the top four at this point and after the next five games in the 2013/14 season while the other major factor was that the side did not once finish a round of Premier League games inside the top four after the second League game under Moyes.

That made his tenure in charge that much harder to support and helped split the fans into two camps even if a lot of credit has to be given to match going Reds for sticking with Moyes to the bitter end.

At least under Louis Van Gaal, Manchester United have been playing well enough that some were even hoping for a title challenge over the next five months. That means they are in a much better position to finish in the Champions League spots which remains the minimum aim with the squad at Van Gaal's disposal.

So while I do think the question put to Louis Van Gaal was ridiculous and the subsequent 'experts' following on from that to give it more legs is nothing more than filling gaps in a quiet week, I also think fans have the right to question some of Van Gaal's decisions.

The loss to Southampton was as much to do with poor tactical decisions as it was to do with Southampton's solid defensive shape- I won't understand playing someone like Angel Di Maria up front with his back to goal where he is probably at his least dangerous, and the substitutions didn't help United pick up any kind of tempo.

Radamel Falcao's omission was a real surprise considering I have felt he was rounding into form and deserved his place ahead of Robin Van Persie who is becoming more and more a player that can produce a good finish from time to time but offering little else as the main target man.

I am not buying the media stories about Falcao being that unhappy, especially as he could be in line to have a run in the team in the absence of Van Persie who suffered an ankle injury against Southampton. I'm sure I wasn't the only one surprised by James Wilson being in the squad ahead of Falcao, but I was happy to hear that the obvious failings in the squad, namely a lack of speed, have been seen by Van Gaal and that inspires confidence that he will get the team going in the right direction.

That 'plan' is far better than what we had seen from Moyes, although I have to admit I was looking forward to his attempts to bring in Cesc Fabregas and Toni Kroos. The difference again has come from the manner in which each manager carried themselves and the Van Gaal 'arrogance' is sometimes needed at a club of this size and I am not sure Moyes was ever going to understand that.

The next five games in the Premier League are going to make things a lot clearer as to what Manchester United can achieve this season, but I am utterly convinced United will have more than the 42 points they had in February 2014 under Moyes.

It will be good to see if the journalist bringing in the statement about Moyes which annoyed Van Gaal as much as it did will have the statistics to hand following the trip to the Liberty Stadium next month.

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