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Thursday, 9 April 2015

United Corner- 5 Ways Louis Van Gaal's Fortunes have Improved at Old Trafford (April 9th 2015)

United Corner- 5 Ways Louis Van Gaal's Fortunes have Improved at Old Trafford (April 9th 2015)

I know there was a lot of excitement about the appointment of Louis Van Gaal in the summer, although I can still state that I was not one of those getting overly-giddy. The strong performance of the Netherlands at the World Cup only increased the expectation, but I have at least maintained what I expected from Manchester United this season.

There was never a moment that I felt Manchester United were as bad as they showed last season under David Moyes, but a poor run of form meant the top four was far from assured. Back in December, I was convinced Manchester United were well on their way to a Champions League spot, but they allowed the challengers to get close as the March fixtures approached.

Louis Van Gaal was beginning to have more questions asked about himself, while games against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool increased in difficulty after the defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup Sixth Round.

I don’t think many would argue with me that the side have produced their two best performances in those games as Manchester United won both and now look in a strong position to finish in the top four once again. There are still some big fixtures to come, but these five issues look to have turned the Manchester United season and also the Louis Van Gaal fortunes.

Robin Van Persie’s Injury
You might not have heard many people say this a couple of years ago, but Robin Van Persie’s injury seems to have come at the right time for Louis Van Gaal.

There seemed to be a real loyalty towards his fellow Dutchman despite some below par performances and while the focus may have been on Radamel Falcao’s struggles, Van Persie had hardly been setting the world alight.

Van Persie is very much a striker that thrives on the service he is given, but a lack of energy in some performances made that difficult.

His injury meant Louis Van Gaal turned back to Wayne Rooney to lead the line and the energy and work-rate provided by the English striker has really given the midfield someone to aim for. The bigger impact may be the fact that Rooney moving out of midfield meant there was room for other players.

Getting Ander Herrera and Juan Mata integrated into the team
Other players like Ander Herrera and latterly Juan Mata.

Ander Herrera has really been the player that the fans have wanted to see with his performances always being good to watch and also the fact he provides goals from the midfield. It was something of a surprise that Van Gaal seemed to continue to overlook the Spaniard, but Rooney moving out of midfield made space for Herrera and he has blossomed in recent weeks.

Herrera himself has said he hadn’t taken on board all that Van Gaal had wanted from him earlier in the season but his understanding with Juan Mata has really sparked some creativity from the midfield.

Juan Mata is a top player and one I admire massively, but he looked a little lost in the mix at Old Trafford until returning in the Tottenham Hotspur game. The suspension of Angel Di Maria turned out to be a blessing in disguise and Mata has responded in the manner the fans would expect, while giving Manchester United more of a forward thinking player and added creativity and goals in the starting eleven.

Removing the Confusing Back Three Formation
This has happened for a while, but the Manchester United team do look more comfortable in their roles with a back four rather than the wing back system that they had used for a while.

Some of the mistakes that were being made have been cut out at the same time and there does seem to be more cohesiveness between the centre halves which has also seen the team pick up more clean sheets.

David De Gea’s Continuing Form
Forget the mistake that David De Gea made at the weekend against Aston Villa, the continuing strong form he is showing behind the back four is inspiring further confidence.

Unfortunately it might also mean there are more admiring glances being given to De Gea from Real Madrid, but for this season it could be enough to see Manchester United finish in the top four.

There have been rumours that Van Gaal and De Gea don’t see eye to eye on things, but the former has to be thankful to the latter in keeping United moving forward.

Removing the Fear
A big key to the improved performances has been the attitude of the players and I have to give Louis Van Gaal the biggest credit for this.

There seems to be a much more positive approach to games and Manchester United don’t look nervous these days compared with the difficult time they had at the turn of the calendar year.

The ‘philosophy’ has finally been bought into by the players and the likes of Ander Herrera and Juan Mata are very keen to get the play moving forward which is a far cry from the days where the midfield seemed much keener to play with their back to the opposition goal.

Getting the best out of Marouane Fellaini is another credit that has to be given to Louis Van Gaal and there is now a real confidence going into the second Manchester derby of the season.

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