It is fabled that an early Spanish conquistador Captain Hernán Cortés upon landing his expedition for colony at Veracruz, ordered his men to burn their ships. The insanity of the order gave his men much pause no doubt, but the story goes that they all drowned themselves in rum and set the ships ablaze. This story is peddled in different connotations and with different characters even at most modern leadership training retreats. In the story’s spine lies a hard truth that every leader has to face – safety nets encourage retreat.
The burn the ships attitude beckons to leaders to reaffirm their primal instincts of decisive decision making, chart a course, take a stand then stick with it no matter what, if they really believe their vision of the future. Stand firm, stand alone if you have to, because others who are shortsighted, uncommitted, and opposed to your plan wither away with the slightest hint of hardship.
This is the reason why it is futile to try to understand the mad mind of Louis van Gaal. At United, the mad king has burned all the ships as it relates to his striker corps. LVG has always spoken glowingly about his captain Wayne Rooney but mostly in terms of his dedication and multi-functionality. It has not been expressly evident what the Dutch trainer-coach thinks about the English record goals scorer’s strike rate.
He was quick the earmark both Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao as United’s main strikers ahead of the Englishman in his maiden season with the red devils. After his nightmarish experience at the hand of Leicester City at the King Power stadium, a game that might have very well transformed Van Gaal for good and pushed him into the philosophy of control at all cost. United’s 5-2 loss after opening a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 goal lead damaged Van Gaal permanently, and ended any designs of a cavalier United.
That infamous loss at the King Power stadium was the first time he had dropped Rooney into the midfield, to take up a deeper role, after he had started and evaluated Rooney in 4 games prior to that as a striker. "Rooney can play in more positions, he is a multi-functional player and I have tried him in a striker's position," the Dutchman said. "He has played well, but not spectacular. Falcao is a striker and I think he can do it better." At the end of a very uneven first season Van Gaal sounded out with even more clarity on his assessment of his striking options, "At this moment, we don't have a striker who scores 20 goals." So it is quite astonishing that after a brief 2 month layover, the United manager seemed to place all his eggs in the Wayne Rooney basket.
The vanquished - Manchester United forwards that found themselves on Van Gaal's transfer block.