In a report published by the Manchester Evening News, former Manchester United winger Andrei Kanchelskis blasted Louis van Gaal and his style of football and even went as far to suggest the Premier League title will not return to Old Trafford as long as the 63-year-old Dutchman is in charge at the club.
Kanchelskis was quoted as saying, “With Louis van Gaal in charge they will not become champions for another 10 years. I don’t understand the type of football he is instilling into his players. I don’t fancy their chances with him in charge – they aren’t going to compete with Chelsea and Manchester City.”
The former Russian winger, who played at Manchester United between 1991 and 1995 before he left for Everton under acrimonious circumstances, was alarmed at the lack of entertainment within United’s football following his visit to Old Trafford to witness the club’s 1-0 defeat to Southampton almost a fortnight ago.
Kanchelskis also pointed to several former Manchester United colleagues of his including Peter Schmeichel, Paul Ince and Eric Cantona, suggesting they would be ‘pulling their hair out’ at such a performance.
Firstly, Kanchelskis is correct in his description of Manchester United’s performance against Southampton with the club unable to muster a single shot on target throughout the entire ninety minutes of play. However this is as far as Kanchelskis’ comments can be taken fully on board, at least in my mind.
If Manchester United had a fully assembled team as Chelsea do at this moment and performances like the one against Southampton were a regular occurrence then the concern would be understandable however there are such clear defined reasons as to why United are currently struggling it is difficult to place such a timeframe on United not enjoying success.
United have yet to address their issues in defence. The trio of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling are all still under scrutiny by Van Gaal with the Dutchman determined to improve his defensive options in the transfer market either this month or in the summer with the latter being more likely.
The lack of confidence within United’s defence hinders attacking play with the likes of Angel Di Maria, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney especially unable to truly let the handbrake off in attack as there is an understanding how vulnerable United are at the back.
There is also the question of balance. Louis van Gaal is not a 3-5-2 favouring manager, he has utilised the system with both the Netherlands and Manchester United due to deficiencies in both defence and midfield. Manchester United’s best performances in attack this season came using a 4-4-2 diamond system however there was simply no protection for United’s defence with Daley Blind the only deep midfielder and United often ended up hanging on in matches due to the pressure put on a fragile back line.
Van Gaal is still a few players short of where Manchester United need to be in order to play consistently with freedom and dominate matches with entertaining attacking player. There needs to be a commanding force at the heart of defence who can breed confidence throughout the defensive zone as well as a powerful midfielder who can add a real element of steel to United’s football, a Kevin Strootman or Paul Pogba to name but two.
It cannot be ignored that United have spent around £150million under Van Gaal yet are still multiple players short of a title challenging team, however in truth this says more about the state of Manchester United’s financial model and the mistakes of previous administrations.
Sir Alex Ferguson played the transfer market to his own expectations for years, I still wonder myself whether had he still been in charge now United would have spent over £30million on one player. The central midfield position was ignored for multiple transfer windows, Manchester United wouldn’t negotiate with Tottenham for Luka Modric nor would they push out slightly more money for Wesley Sneijder. Meanwhile the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City spent and spent well.
United have been left to play catch-up and that is exactly what happened in Van Gaal’s first summer in charge. The attacking elements were put in place with the signings of Di Maria and Ander Herrera whilst the defence was ignored barring the deal for Marcos Rojo.
You also have to look at Van Gaal’s history as a coach having won the top domestic title with every club he has managed, of course English football has different tactical and physical elements but Van Gaal has shown he is willing to change his team to suit such elements thus far this season by his inclusion of Marouane Fellaini when it became clear his side were being bullied in matches.
Kanchelskis is entitled to his opinions but given Manchester United’s comparable spending power to their nearest rivals in these times of Financial Fair Play as well as the brief glimpses of quality from Van Gaal’s unfinished side this season, I feel it is incredibly premature to say the club won’t win a title for 10 years.
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