Following Manchester United’s draw against Burnley, Sunday Mirror columnist Andy Dunn took to his column to criticize manager Louis van Gaal and claim that “the clock was ticking” on the Dutch boss’ time at Old Trafford.
Dunn chose to to start his column off by saying: “A stellar reputation takes a long time to build…and a short time to dismantle.”
The sportswriter went on to blame United’s early season failures on Van Gaal’s tactics, his ability to organize and galvanize a team that finished in seventh place last season; and the Dutch manager’s constant reminders that he needs time for his philosophy to take hold at the club.
The Sunday Mirror columnist echoed the thoughts of a section of United supporters when he wrote: “When the signings are done, the fat trimmed and the international break is over, Van Gaal will step back into a harsher spotlight.”
“He wants three months, six months, a year, before he is judged. There will be no chance of that.”
“Not if he continues to persuade increasingly dreadful performances from his teams.”
But this kind of thinking only shows the journalist’s naivety, as well as those fans who agree with his impressions.
Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But that also means they are eligible to be called out when they are wrong.
The majority of United supporters understand the rebuilding process that needs to be undertaken at Old Trafford. It has been coming for years.
Last season, the club’s failure to invest in the transfer market during previous windows, as well as David Moyes failed tenure, came back to kick United HARD in the backside.
United’s aging team and its overpriced, underachieving talent were exposed week-in and week-out by Premier League clubs. Some of the results had to do with the manager’s tactics. But the underlying problem was that the club needed new blood.
Van Gaal’s arrival had many believing United would automatically spring back into the top four, with some going as far to say they were now title contenders. And the club’s preseason results only fueled those expectations, as Van Gaal led the squad to victory after victory (with little preparation time) heading into the start of the league fixtures.
All the while, the new United boss reminded journalist and fans that it would “take time” for his philosophy and tactics to take hold.
Then a rash of injuries, to a squad that already lacked depth, took its toll during United’s opening league fixtures. What has followed is two points after three matches.
Van Gaal doesn’t have much to choose on the defensive side of the pitch due to the departures of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra; and the club have failed to address the loss of leadership those players provided to this point in the season.
Nearly two weeks ago, United signed Argentina international Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon. But the versatile defender, who was named in the World XI team of FIFA World Cup 2014, has been unable to participate in matches due to continuous issues in obtaining his work permit.
And Luke Shaw, who was purchased from Southampton in June, has not played a single league match since suffering a hamstring injury during United’s preseason tour of the United States.
To this point, Rojo and Shaw are the only defenders the club have secured during the summer window. Although, United are close to finalizing a deal for Ajax defender Daley Blind, who is versatile in that he can play midfield as well as defense.
Once the signing of Blind is secured, United will have completed deals for five players during this window. But to this point, only two of the signings have played in a competitive match; and neither of those players have played in the same match together.
Ander Herrera started against Swansea City at Old Trafford, but suffered an injury and has since to return; and Angel Di Maria started his first match this weekend against Burnley. So the team that finished seventh place last season, minus Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra; has remained unchanged from the 2013-14 campaign.
Once the international break is over, United should have most of their summer signings playing at the same time. But that doesn’t mean the club’s fortunes will inevitably change for the better. It will take time for those players to adapt to the league and to gel as a team.
There will be more bumps in the road.
Liverpool went through this a few years ago when Brendan Rodgers took over and installed his philosophy into the club. There were catastrophic errors in judgment, especially in defense, during those first few seasons as players tried to adjust themselves to what was a foreign footballing ideology to them.
United will suffer through similar situations this season…and possibly into the next.
But Van Gaal’s principles are sound and have a proven track record.
Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax were all the beneficiaries of the Dutchman’s patience, teachings and man-management.
Manchester United will be no different.
Last week, following a 45 minute interview, Sky Sports pundit and former United captain Gary Neville took to his column in The Telegraph to share his thoughts on Van Gaal:
“Last season, I confess, I was worried about United after a disastrous campaign. I was concerned about where the club would go next. There was talk straight after David Moyes left that a foreign manager would come in. I had seen what had happened at other clubs, where a 60-year philosophy is ripped up in favor of three-year cycles, with each new manager turning the culture upside down.”
“I left Carrington [following the interview] feeling that Van Gaal is, in fact, true to the traditions laid down by Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson. I’m not saying he will stay 25 years. But he holds to the same principles.”
Neville concluded: “He [Van Gaal] offers reassurance: ‘My teams shall improve through the season,’ he says. ‘That is not a question,’ meaning – that is not a doubt. ‘They shall improve.’”
United supporters would do better to trust the pedigree and leadership of Louis Van Gaal, then to listen to naivety of tabloid journalists and impulsive sports fans.