Van Gaal's love-in with Ander Herrera at halftime during the game at Old Trafford against Aston Villa tells its own story. The Iron Tulip cemented his love-hate relationship, with the Basque midfielder, with a kiss. LVG claims he planted one on Herrera because his first goal, for the Red Devils, right before half time represented the fist time in the young Spanish midfielder's life that he had managed to control the ball and score – a stretch of the truth at best.
Curious statement from the gaffer since Herrera is one of of the few players on the squad who has a delightful first touch, and he has already shown in the past that he is able to provide goals from the middle of the park. Then again Van Gaal does endulge is strange celebrations, no doubt Ryan Giggs would be relieved it was not his face that was being smacked by LVG this time, a smackeroo on Herrera instead would have been a most welcomed change of pace for the Welshman.
To understand the previously strained relationship between the United boss and his £30m recruit, you have to understand Van Gaal's philosophy. The Dutch trainer-manager has a profound distaste for individual fluidity as it pertains to ball movement. LVG is a strong believer in moving the ball within a dynamic framework of triangles. There is reliance upon overcoming opponents by simply having greater numbers in key areas of the pitch. LVG adopts what is
"essentially an over obsessive appetite for possession. The use of short quick one-two passing supported by a fluid and organic network of triangular origami-like movement to sustain channels for passes. The main objective is to keep the field compact and not share the ball with your opponent. If they do not have the ball, they simply cannot score." - chuky Akosionu
This approach to the game naturally alienates players of Herrera's ilk (see Angel Di Maria), who have the ability to also run with the ball at their feet. Herrera has disclosed, his propensity to run and dribble in open spaces has been a point of contention with LVG. This probably led to Van Gaal's earlier preference in the campaign of having Rooney, rather than Herrera in midfield. LVG firmly believes such individual initiatives endanger the ability to retain the ball. However it is safe to say the gaffer now embraces the Spaniard as a key member of the starting eleven.
Herrera cemented his United renaissance with two well taken strikes. The first coming in the 43rd minute, expertly controlling the ball in the box and having the composure to evade Guzan in goal. The Spaniard’s second goal, United’s third, came after regulation time, this time ghosting in to find Juan Mata’s cut back pass and finishing calmly, but clinically, as he dispatched the ball to lower left corner of the net. Guzan remained where he stood – frozen.
Watch Rooney's magnificent goal against Aston Villa. See Youtube Video Above.
United’s 91 percent pass success rate, 76 percent possession, and 20 total shots on goal (7 on target) underline the Red Devils supremacy on the day. Villa was only able to muster 2 shots on target all game, with the revitalized Benteke coming up with what would be a consolation goal for the Villans. The usually exceptional David De Gea will be angry with himself for letting in such a manageable strike, and ruining another clean sheet.
It would however be the United captain Rooney who would mark proceedings with a worldie match winner. Di Maria had come on for Young, who had another excellent outing on the left wing. The Argentine with some fancy footwork, evaded Okore’s guard, and launched a probing cross into the box. The ball’s flight was behind Rooney, he corrected by plopping the ball up with his left foot first time, swiveled around and rifled the ball in with his right boot on the half volley – a magnificent display of control, awareness, and predatory skill.
United were 3-1 runaway winners against Aston Villa. It would be the fifth win in a row for the Red Devils. LVG and his men now, momentarily at least, sit above their fierce city rivals. And it is almost fitting that they welcome City next, to the theater that has started to dream again.