Louis van Gaal’s tenure at Manchester United is now six Premier League matches old, with the addition of one match in the Capital One Cup. United were placed into the second round of this competition courtesy of the club’s seventh placed finish last term, something which the Old Trafford club haven’t experienced since 1995.
With six games having been completed and the Premier League table starting to take shape, it is perhaps the first real chance to compare the starts made by both van Gaal and his predecessor David Moyes, who was dismissed just ten months into his stay in Manchester.
After six Premier League matches in charge, David Moyes’ United had recorded just two domestic victories to go alongside three defeats and a home draw against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. In addition, United entered the Capital One Cup at the third round stage, being drawn against fierce rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford on the night Luis Suarez’s suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic elapsed. United emerged 1-0 winners that night.
In direct comparison, Louis van Gaal isn’t faring much better with his new look Manchester United side, bolstered by the long overdue injections of top quality in the forms of Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao, recording two victories, two draws and two defeats. United’s sole fixture in the Capital One Cup was an embarrassing 4-0 defeat away to MK Dons.
In terms of pure footballing statistics, there is seemingly little difference in results between the opening to David Moyes’ spell as United manager and that of the incumbent boss Van Gaal. However, in terms of league positioning, United found themselves in twelfth place following a home defeat to West Bromwich Albion in late September last season whilst van Gaal’s United sit seventh, just two points of the top four.
However, when you look at the overall scheme of the two United teams in question, the current crop of stars under van Gaal’s stewardship leave far more reasons to be cheerful than last year.
United’s current problem is quite easily identified, the lack of a commanding central defender who can lead a back four. With the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic having not been addressed in the transfer market, van Gaal has been forced to rely on 20-year-old Tyler Blackett as his defensive mainstay.
Injuries have plagued United’s defense and to a degree can be used to deflect criticism from United’s disappointing defeats to both Swansea and Leicester City, although on the flip side it could be argued that given how easy it is to see United’s defensive frailties, the decision not to bring a centre-half in during the summer is even more difficult to understand.
Going forward is a different story. The current group of international stars all fitted together in the 4-4-2 diamond system are giving United supporters some of the best football seen by the club since the great European Cup winning side of 2008.
Not since a certain Cristiano Ronaldo has there been a United player who could pick the ball up inside his own half and fans simply expect a chance to be created from there, yet Angel di Maria is exactly this player.
United have arguably the best forward line in the Premier League, yet due to defensive worries, are by no means guaranteed a spot in the top four.
This is a sharp contrast to United’s attacking play in the first six matches of David Moyes’ tenure with the tendency to fire seemingly aimless crosses towards the back post leaving United supporters miffed to say the very least.
Whilst results have been similar, the overall feeling around United under Van Gaal is far more positive than a year ago. There is genuine evidence of forward planning and progression and when United finally bring in a centre-half of high quality, then you are looking at a team who could be potential title contenders.
|David Moyes||Swansea (a) W 4-1||Chelsea (h) 0-0||Liverpool (a) L 1-0||Crystal Palace (h) W 2-0||Manchester City (a) L 4-1||West Brom (h) L 2-1||7|
|Louis van Gaal||Swansea (h) L 2-1||Sunderland (a) 0-0||Burnley (a) 0-0||QPR (h) W 4-0||Leicester City (a) L 5-3||West Ham (h) W 2-1||8|
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