The defeat at the Liberty Stadium two weeks ago caused a lot of soul searching among the United faithful, and in the literal sense as well. Currently there is a fight for the soul of Manchester United football, and what the football dished week-in-week-out should look like. Is it the fast breaking, wing play that dominated Sir Alex Ferguson's golden years? Or this new philosophy of a more controlled possession approach that Van Gaal has sought to establish. It must be said SAF did veer away from the swashbuckling style of play to a hybrid system that had the high flying wide men tucked in more, to help out in the middle of the pitch - a result of very hard lessons from past European campaigns.
LVG admitted he was amazed by the Swansea result, and was probably put off by the flat display the red devils managed to conjure after an encouraging start - which was capped by a fantastic team goal. Outcast Ander Herrera fortuitously put one past Fabianski, with a little help from the bewieldered Swansea captain Ashley Williams. However, United never got a chance to consolidate as Ki provided an almost immediate Swansea response from a deft cross from Shelvey. Ki managed to ghost his way into the box, losing the erratic Shaw and his compatriots at the center (Jones/Rojo).
Gary Monks more direct approach, spearheaded by Gomis, had the Swans constantly looking to break on the counter. They pushed the ball up the field at speed whenever they were able to wrestle control from United, who enjoyed a large percentage of the possession. The main problem with the way United have been moving the ball, beyond the formation issues, is two-fold. There is a desperate lack of pace, and lack of incisiveness. United tend to knock the ball about slowly, most times overplaying the ball in advanced areas (can be indicative of over-coaching). This allows most defenses time to reposition, it also wastes the runs of the United strikers who mostly prefer play on the edge of defenses. The more United midfielders overplay, the more space is created between them and the strike unit.
It is actually quite commendable that LVG wants United to play in a more matured, continental style of playing. It is good that a new manager tries to get his philosophy through to the squad, however at the moment it seems to be stalling as there are several limitations within the current team. I am sure with more investment LVG will have players with the football intelligence to carry out his schemes on match day. Till then, he most be more pragmatic and more brutal in dispatching his instructions. United need to be more explosive, less shackled, and more direct to keep in the hunt of a top 4 spot. To slip out of a Champions League spot at the end of season will surely be damaging to the brand, the United brand, which is far and foremost ahead of the brand of football.