Manchester United’s number one problem going into the new season is not losing a preseason friendly to PSG, although losing something much more valuable is at the core of it. However, It is simply this - Louis van Gaal is messy. He is just as messy as the best manager in the English premier league at the moment, his friend, José Mourinho.
Mourinho, however, is messy in a whole different sort of way. In a, speak-incredibly-inappropriately-about-the-spouse-of-a-fellow-professional (see Benitez), poke-the-eye- of-a-terminally-sick-coach (see Vilanova), continually-taunt-and-deride-a-peer (see Benitez, Guardiola, and Wegner) -in-the-press kind of way. Yes, very messy.
The Chelsea boss can be very naughty, and yet is celebrated by the press because of his on pitch achievements.
Not that any half-decent human being with a basic modicum of civility and politeness could ever excuse the Chelsea manager’s tantrums exercised in the public sphere, as the Portuguese chief attention whore does not seem like slowing down anytime soon, even if at one point Mourinho did seem to head fake majority of the press last season into believing he had matured considerably over the years and that his trademark hot headedness had been consigned to the past.
With that being said, Mourinho never lets his messiness spill into his team, save the torrid Casillas affair and the Eto’o gaffe. In fact most, if not part, of it is really his siege mentality strategy he typically adapts to light a fire under his team to invigorate them.
LVG is quite the opposite. His brashness, one of the reasons he is often refered to as the Iron Tulip, combined with his awkwardness at man management will prove to be the achilles heel for the red devils. One can always see the light heartiness in erroneously misidentifying your best, arguably, center back Chris Smalling… as ‘Mike’. That can be explained away, we can relegate that to the slap-Giggsy-around hilarity basket.
For all his technical variability and astuteness, Van Gaal is the equivalent of the stereotypical brilliant nerd with a debilitating social savvy. And make no mistake, his general lack of guile as it pertains to man management is debilitating, especially at this crucial juncture in the club's history. The Dutch coach must learn to be both Iron and Tulip.
On the way out: Victor Valdes will be 'allowed' to leave the club due to disagreements with Van Gaal over playing with the U-21 squad.
LVG has picked a very public quarrel with Valdes, which within the scales of moral justice is quite valid, however that situation should really have remained a tiff, but now has imploded into an all out bar fight, with the highly decorated and experienced Spanish keeper being thrown overboard in the process.
His handling of the British record signing, Angel Di Maria, and his sides only true game changer, till Memphis comes up to speed of the EPL at least, has been as shoddy as his captains first touch – more on that later. LVG’s inability to sniff out the problems that temptatious glances from the Bernabéu would cause as the Spanish giants turned the head of, David De Gea, his team’s best player, two-times running, is somewhat amateurish, and will serve as a constant source of destabilization for the red devils as that drama plays out.
Angel Di Maria. The Argentine never seemed up for the fight at Old trafford.
More of a creature of tactical systems and football philosophies, and less a man of the people, Van Gaal has spectacularly failed to protect Manchester United’s prize jewels with both De Gea and Di Maria sulking for moves away from Old Trafford. No blame can be assigned to the Dutch trainer-coach for DDG’s lust for his homeland. His heart has literally never left, being that his girlfriend is based there. But this is where Sir Alex Ferguson would have shed his dictatorial shtick, and dazzled with his ability to put ‘an arm around the player’ à la another high profile United player who was wet dreaming of playing in the famous Madrid white.
Sir Alex ferguson handled the desire of his star player, Ronaldo, to leave the club masterfully.
This surely needed to be done with De Gea - assure the player about his value to the organization and team mates, remind him of the clubs belief in him as they gambled to pay a club record fee for a young goal keeper, remind the player how many hours were put into reshaping his physical presence, promise the player that the club would partner with him to make his dream move a reality if he commits to an extra season, to buy the club some time to transition that position, encourage him to sign a new contract as a show of loyalty and to give the club much needed leverage at the bargaining table, and some return in value for the initial investment.
All the things that made the Ronaldo transfer to Real Madrid palatable, and without it being massively disruptive to the club. Rehabilitating Victor Valdes and keeping him as a security blanket looked as an astute strategy till the handbags came out, mishandling the situation means that United end up with a player who has not been able to secure a first team spot at two previous clubs and even Sampdoria viewed as expendable – hardly a viable first team option regardless of Romero’s exploits with his national team.
Manchester United's David De Gea would like to return to Spain and has refused to sign a contract extension.
De Gea has his reasons why he wants to return to his homeland.
Van Gaal cannot stick his head in the sand and pretend his duties do not extend beyond his clipboard and notebooks. It is easier to be ruthless, which he is and thankfully so, than to be persuasive and inspirational. He recently announced his desire to stick to a 4-3-3 formation, and yet it appears he has not done his due diligence in integrating Di Maria into his squad, a failure to sell the player on his philosophy is the most likely culprit here. For me the player never had his head in it, reports that he always preferred the Parisian destination seem vindicated now.
Di Maria blossomed at first, but when he hit his rough patches, LVG did not lend the necessary assistance. He might have exacerbated the issue by playing the Argentine in unfamiliar positions, as he loves to do with his unwavering love of players with inherent positional variability. LVG just announced he shall play Blind at center back, midfield, and left full back, without batting an eye in a press conference – that’s just the kind of coach he is.
When you throw in benching the most valuable player for Ashley Young, who was admittedly superb, along with Di Maria’s very apparent lack of fight – the puniest of players, his cameo in the final game of the season against Hull was vomit inducing, he visibly didn’t want to get into the fight. What you get is a very predictable want to move elsewhere.
How Manchester United can afford to let this player go to a ECL rival at an appreciable loss is beyond me, but if you factor in the damage it will delve to the plans to go 4-3-3, with a deft but slow Mata at one end, Memphis at the No. 10, and Ashley, who-is-no-Neymar, Young at the other end then you will appreciate the need for the manager to have assumed an integral role in helping to entice Di Maria commit to his new red devil revolution.
A lot will be riding on the shoulders of the United skipper Wayne Rooney, now 29 yrs old. Will he deliver for Van Gaal?
Louis van Gaal has my vote to succeed, although with so many other things boiling at the surface such as the current reliance on Wayne Rooney as the main striker, it is just a statistical reality that Manchester United may not have the firepower to shoot their way back all the way to the top, if things hold as they are.
Woodward and LVG might yet have other rabbits to pull out of the hat before the season kicks off on August 8th, the lack of lethal options at the striker’s position, the lack of creative game changer to break down deep defenses, and the upheaval at the goal keeper position present a messy situation – very messy indeed.