Before I start this blog, let me say this: I’ve been a well known Louis Van Gaal apologised.
And i do believe in “A win is a win is a win” mentality. Never apologise for a win.
But what occurred Saturday afternoon at Old Trafford has left me speechless. It was possibly the worst performance I’ve seen Manchester United play in my life, and i’ve been watching games on the regular since the mid-1990’s. Before David Beckham was David Beckham, before Roy Keane was Roy Keane and before Ryan Giggs was Ryan Giggs, i was watching as much United football as possible and buying as many football magazines as possible with hopes there was something written about United in them.
There’s bad games and off nights. Let’s not make it seem United has played flawless football for past 20 years because they haven’t always looked. But this wasn’t that. But this wasn’t that. This was a home match against a club from League One.
Van Gaal put out a conservative lineup. Four in the back and two covering the defence. Against a team that nobody thought would cause much of any attack anyways. As a result, United looked dead. Creating nothing. Marouane Fellaini started as one of the midfielders in front of the defence. Makes sense to play Fellaini to off-set the size difference, as Sheffield United are rather a tall side. He was constantly outside the box playing short pass then there was a gameplay of getting him into the opponents box and feed in balls for him try to head in.
For the tenth straight match at Old Trafford, United were scoreless at half-time. For the fifth straight match they haven’t had a shot on goal in the first half. Their first shot on goal was not until the 69th minute, via defender Matteo Darmian. The team showed no pace, no urgency. As Paul Scholes said after the game: “Fans were bored as nothing happened through out the game. Players look bored too. There’s no spirit. Van Gaal looks bored too.”
United showed no life. Memphis Depay came in and rocketed a shot just wide, a shot that looked dangerous but probably be not too much trouble for Sheffield United goalkeeper Mark Howard had it been on-target. The crowd roared, though. It was the first time United showed they wanted to win.
Premier League clubs against lower league opponents need to play to win. United was doing the opposite, they were playing not to lose. A damning strategy that seems so foreign for a club such as Manchester United. The tactic worked wonders, as Sheffield United had no attacks and no chance of winning. The problem is: United didn’t either. They were one tackle away, a clear foul, but a bit of embellishment by Memphis, too, that resulted in a penalty kick. Had the play gone any different, we’re discussing a United match in about ten days away at Sheffield United. Equally as embarrassing as beating them 1-0 on a Wayne Rooney penalty kick.
The worrying part is this is far too common. No creativity, no passion and no urgency is the norm at the club right now. If there was a game that could be seen as a breakthrough match for them, it would of been tonight. Instead it was all the same.
Van Gaal seems lost. He would of fixed it if he could. The performances are the same week after week. Whatever it wrong, it’s clear Van Gaal doesn’t know how to fix it.
United’s next two matches should be considered winnable games. But, both on the road. It will be a make-it, or break-it moment for Van Gaal and the team. For United to get points, they will need to attack and score. Something they haven’t been able to do. A performance like today in either of their next two games will result losing valuable points, that they need to maintain their chase for a UCL spot.
Won’t be easy.