Darmain clutching his shoulder and facing a long injury layoff. Photo: John Peter/Getty Images
It was in a Mississippi used car lot that we spotted her. My mother and I, freshly emigrated to the United States, on the hunt for our first car. Metallic brown 1995 Ford Taurus 4-door sedan, it had been well detailed and oiled down, beaming alluringly in the southern sun. The car sales man was on a roll, we asked for something within a modest budget that would satisfy our needs. He started foaming at the mouth about how the car had a unique gear stick, combination lock system on the door, and a manual keyless start. What good is a pickup style gear stick, keyless entry and start, if the blasted transmission gives way in under 2 years, along with a myriad of electrical problems? That godforsaken contraption was a money sinkhole, it was akin to yanking an outlandishly overweight albatross off my neck when I finally found an unfortunate soul to pawn it to.
Louis Van Gaal found his unfortunate soul in the ultra-savvy marketer Edward Woodward, the Manchester United executive, who has now fumbled managing the club's succession from Alex Ferguson's glory years at the second time of asking. We might never know the fine underlining's of the deal to bring the former Netherlands coach to Old Trafford, the expectations of the United board baked into the 3 season contract at a minimum, and from all accounts, would have contained rudimentary targets of a healthy European campaign, qualification to the UCL, and a vigorous title challenge bankrolled on 250 million pounds from Woodward's United treasury. All of which Van Gaal has struggled to deliver, the egocentric Dutch trainer-coach has huffed and puffed, without ever actually blowing the house down or anything of note for that matter.
"...Any vehicle with numerous, severe issues can be termed so and, by extension, so can any product with flaws too great or severe to serve its purpose" - Lemon (Definition)
Here lies the core flaw with Louis Van Gaal. Almost immediately after he was appointed, he made United's future all about him, the gravitational force of his ego welcoming the prospect that everything that will be great about United will stem from the sheer power of his football philosophy. It was his philosophy that was going to get United back to the top of European elite. It was his process that would garner success, if United were not winning, it was because the players did not understand or were not following his philosophy. He seems more interested in seeing his philosophy win, more than anything, more than United winning. When the team got out of the December nose dive, with his skipper with a few others alluding to enjoying a new approach, LVG was quick to whip them back in line…no no no, it’s my philosophy that’s winning. He came to the premier league with his own calculus, thrusting a solution in before comprehending the size and nature of the problem, as if his philosophy was a one size fits all solution, regardless of the nature of the league.
Koné rises and scores a fortutious goal, David De Gea credited with the own-goal. Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty
"United came in, after being heralded as having turned more corners than a drunk NASCAR driver at Daytona Beach, taking refreshing steps forward in the new unshackled version of the Van Gaal philosophy, only to backslide like a jerry curled Michael Jackson moonwalking on glass..."
LVG's pitiful win percentage is a testament to the fact that after nearly 2 seasons, the United manager has not figured out how to win enough games in the English Premier League, to become a title threat. That is the fundamental truth, he has shown an inability to understand the variances in this topsy-turvy league, to adjust his match day squad setup to the realities on the pitch, and feed the needs of his team rather than his unquenchable ego. Every real or armchair manager alive knows LVG will set up with two holding midfielders at the base, irrespective of the situation, no matter if it is their city rivals, league fodder Aston Villa, or less illustrious lower league opposition. Is it really necessary to have both Carrick and Schneiderlin in the squad against a Black Cat team struggling desperately for goals, and firmly rooted to the relegation zone?
Unite fans might not actually understand the full implication of the spineless display against Sunderland. United came in, after being heralded as having turned more corners than a drunk NASCAR driver at Daytona Beach, taking refreshing steps forward in the new unshackled version of the Van Gaal philosophy, only to backslide like a jerry curled Michael Jackson moonwalking on glass. Sunderland were in no danger of doing anything momentous with a win, even with 3 points they were and still are in the relegation zone, United came in with title ambition, as LVG insufferably points out after every game won, and yet he was not able to inspire and motivate his team to win against the 2nd worst team in the league. Over engineering his team with two anchors, who both had a bad game especially the aging metronome Carrick, and did not stop United from being outscored despite setting up defensively.
Most of United 'brain trust' put in a bad showing on the pitch and did not help their manager. Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty
Louis Van Gaal shakes 'Big Sam's' hand at the Stadium of light. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty
United broke with tradition and bought several up and coming stars almost all at once, Woodward spent heavily at the behest of LVG, and his Gaalactico project so far has only bought United front seat in the theater of the also-rans. Looking at the current table United might as well be Southampton in disguise, another team coached by a Dutch, that sets up ultra defensively at the base of the field, with similar meager showings in the final third although Coleman's team currently leads the devils by 1 more league goal, 34 to United's 33 total goals. United are at their level with the insurgents, winning only one game more than Liverpool, Watford, West Ham, and Stoke. The numbers are what they are, any press conference declaration suggesting otherwise is simply disingenuous. There is no evidence that United can win on the continent with this style of football, the best route to silverware remains the FA Cup.
On this valentines day, hopefully Ed Woodward is seriously brooding over his love relationship with Van Gaal. The 'call me maybe' overtures from Mourinho's camp should really force him to contemplate the future, and consider where he realistically wants to take to club in the next seasons ahead. Van Gaal might yet pull a rabbit out of the hat and finish in the top four, but that is looking increasingly doubtful save a catastrophic loss of composure from the current leading pack, either way it would be more of United getting lucky than the force of the philosophy saving the day. Losing against Sam Allardyce, a manager he once chided, and who caused him to unearth dossiers to prove the football on display was far from unimaginative. The United chief executive might have to come to terms with the reality that the apple of his eye, might instead actually be a lemon.
Manchester United Man of the Match - Anthony Martial