SEA View: Louis Van Gaal: The Good And The Bad


In this edition of SEA View: David, Bob and Matthew discuss what has impressed them about Louis van Gaal and what could he do better.

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David (writer)

Louis van Gaal arrived at Manchester United on the back of an unmistakably disastrous campaign and that should not be forgotten when looking to analyse his tenure just 3 months in. A glittering CV and an eye catching World Cup campaign with Holland only heightened excitement and expectations and there is certainly a lot to be impressed with when it comes to the mercurial Dutchman.

Perhaps most prominent has been the former Ajax man’s unwavering belief in his own philosophy which bears an acute contrast to the dithering nature of his predecessor. Many may argue that the abandonment of the 3-5-2 system so early in the season contradicts the Dutchman’s stubborn and meticulous nature, but the shift should be welcomed; adaptation in modern football is paramount.

When Van Gaal talks of his philosophy, he does not mean formations, he means tempo of play, forward movements, defensive shape, rotation of possession, regardless of where the players are on the pitch.

The Dutchman implored fans and the media alike to give him 3 months and there is no doubt that improvements are starting to materialise. Moreover, despite some poor results Van Gaal remains as entrenched as ever and it is encouraging that fans and, most importantly, the players are seemingly buying into his philosophy.

What’s most impressive is that changes have been made throughout the club; sleeping pods installed, training pitches ripped up, but everyone is striving for the same goal, everyone believes.  The belief is founded on Van Gaal’s previous success (something which his predecessor could not rely on) and in that sense it is comforting that even in the face of adversity and some poor performances there is truly a sense that the club are back on the right path.

With that said, performances need to improve, and quickly. It is no secret that the club have enjoyed some (albeit on paper) kind fixtures at the start of the campaign but have lamentably failed to maximise the situation. Finishing in the final third has been poor and performances have been inconsistent.

This is where improvements need to be made. United have played well in patches but have regularly switched off for periods. The fact that the club have only won once after conceding first in 2014 in the Premier League is not only astonishing, but a reflection of the lack of confidence and leadership throughout the squad, and it is Van Gaal’s job to rebuild and inject these qualities.

Overall, the transition from Sir Alex Ferguson’s United is evidently still in progress, but in the mercurial Dutchman all associated with the club have reason for optimism.

Bob (forum moderator)

Van Gaal’s tenure to date has been littered with odd substitutions; a blind spot for an underperforming Van Persie; numerous systems used and 12 points from a possible 24 is a poor return from a relatively easy start to the season. He is fortunate to be succeeding Moyes and not Sir Alex, as whispers of discontent would surely be louder.

‘Philosophy’ has been the buzz word used by van Gaal since his first press conference in July. What is his philosophy? What strategy is he trying to implement? Do the players understand their individual roles? Has the use of numerous formations resulted in a fragmented team? Our attacking play has been generally better, but is this due to van Gaal, summer arrivals or a combination of the two? Personally, I think Di Maria and Herrera have made a significant difference. He has been unlucky with injuries to defenders, however defensive organisation throughout the team has been poor and therefore susceptible to counter attacks.

I am not for one moment suggesting that van Gaal should be sacked, the aforementioned questions/issues are areas where I feel he can improve. The club is in transition; time and patience is required. His CV will give him the time to implement his methods, and rightly so.

Am I harsh/unfair or wrong?

Matthew (writer)

I’ve definitely been impressed with Van Gaal’s bold approach to the job. I’m sure when he came in, many United fans were thinking an instant return to success was on the cards.

I think many of us forget just how far we fell last season and, frankly, how much the team had deteriorated in Fergie’s twilight years also.

Van Gaal said he had a big job on his hands and I think the first two months of the season has proved just how daunting the task is.

The thing I’ve been most impressed by though is how comfortable he seems in the role. Despite a less than stellar start, he has not once appeared flustered by our indifferent form, nor intimidated by the size of the task and the glare of the spotlight on him.

In fact, a lot of the time, he seems extremely blasé about our inadequacies.

A good example of this was in the League Cup defeat to MK Dons. Shocking performance, but at a time of the season when United were searching for their maiden win, many would have been starting to feel the pressure. Not the Dutchman though.

Instead of fielding his strongest side and putting in the big guns to crush the MK minnows, he stuck to traditions of giving the youngsters game time and giving fringe players much needed minutes.

David May was a pundit in the Sky Sports studio for the game and told presenter Simon Thomas after Van Gaal’s post match interview that he thought LVG was showing signs of feeling the pressure. I couldn’t have disagreed more. To me Van Gaal didn’t seem the least bit perturbed, and that is a sign of a man who truly believes in the project he is building.

As for things he could do better, I know he has this ‘philosophy’ that he is trying to establish and get the players to believe in, I just wish he would use a different line with the media from time to time.

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