Thursday, 6 November 2014

Manchester United's Aug-Nov Review.

So far not so good.

When Alex Ferguson took over at United from Ron Atkinson, it took him four years to win anything and build his own team to his particular high standards. Mainly, the united fans were patient, but there were some calling for his head, and if reports are to be believed, he was so close to being fired had it not been for a through ball from Mark Hughes that Mark Robbins latched onto to score against Nottingham Forest in the FA cup 3rd round in 1990. Manchester United, of course went onto win the cup that season and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forward to the present day and United have made their worst start in the league since 1986, which coincidentally was only months before Fergie was hired. The way that football as a business is conducted these days new manager Louis van Gaal hasn't got the luxury of the amount of time that Fergie enjoyed at the beginning of his reign, just ask David Moyes. If United, with all the money that they have spent this year don't finish in the top four then they will once again have to review the managers situation. United are now on a par with other teams, in so much as results are more important than loyalty to the manager. Our fans demand success as we have been spoiled over the last two decades, but we have gone from a position of unrivaled success to also ran since Fergie hung up his hairdryer. As big worldwide as we are we have no divine right to be consistently at the top, it has to be earned. I'm sure that when Moyes took over he didn't think how badly his first season would go, after all he was taking over the champions. But to be honest, he didn't have the pedigree to take control of such a huge club. How could someone who hasn't won a trophy possibly motivate his players who are used to success season in season out. It's not his fault, anybody would have said yes to United, and if they say they wouldn't have, then they're lying. So enter Louis van Gaal, known as a strict character with a C.V. that shows his quality as a manager, and following a superb run in the World cup, and an undefeated pre-season in the States, all the fans were licking their lips at the prospect of a great start to the present campaign. However, here we are 13 points from 10 games, no away wins and lying a lowly 10th in the league. So what is wrong?

Louis van Gaal talks repeatedly about players excepting his philosophy of playing the game, that it will take time to evolve and wont happen overnight. This is backed up by the slow starts to the seasons at his previous clubs especially at Bayern Munich. Some directors wanted him out after a poor start but he stayed and they won the championship in the same season. So if his history repeats itself then we should be in for an exciting remainder of the season.

Slow starts are not new to van Gaal.
He has been very unlucky with key injuries especially in defence and three unnecessary red cards. But realistically the premier league is a lot stronger than the Bundesliga, so its going to be more difficult. But to van Gaal's credit he did get it right at his past clubs so there is a higher than average chance he will turn it around. At his side he has Ryan Giggs, and if anybody knows exactly what is expected at the club with its history and traditions, it's him. Also, I for one would love to see van Gaal or Giggs on the touchline more often during the games, especially when things are not going the teams way.

Having done what most fans wanted and spent so heavily in the summer on star names such as Di Maria, Blind, Shaw, Herrera, Rojo and the loan of Falcao, van Gaal has a job to get them all working together with the the players he inherited. Of course, it will take time for them to all gel together as a unit.
Six new signings.
But there is one area that more money needed to be spent and that was in defence. The defenders van Gaal inherited from Moyes and Fergie are either injury prone or just not up to the standard that we are used to at Old Trafford. Losing one key central defender is hard to replace but two is nearly impossible. The sales of Vidic and Ferdinand at the end of last season has left a huge gap in the back four of not just talent, but also leadership and stability. In hindsight maybe we should have kept one of them. With the transfer window coming in a couple of months I would like to see Blackett and McNair given a chance alongside each other at the back until we can buy someone with the experience to help the youngsters along. Rojo is a big loss but Shaw has proved capable in the last few outings. The right back spot is Rafael's over Valencia.

The likes of Di Maria need time to bed into their new surroundings and I'm sure they will all click together, and when they do it will be a joy to watch. I'm a little concerned with the injury to Falcao and I hope it's not a repeat of his troublesome knee. Blind looks to be solid in his roll, and even last seasons misfit Fellaini has been transformed by van Gaal, or fear, or both. He has even been keeping new signing Herrera out of the side. It was pleasing to see Carrick back in action for the derby even though in defence. His experience will be vital over the coming winter months. My one worry is Januzaj, I for one have been championing for his inclusion after encouraging displays for the reserves. Unfortunately he hasn't taken his chances when presented with them and needs to take a step back so as not to lose his confidence. One saving grace quite literally has been David De Gea in goal.

World class De Gea.
He has produced so many brilliant displays already this season, against Everton he was truly world class, with the possibility of having Victor Valdes as cover the No.1 spot seems to be in safe hands.

Up front we have had a barren time but Rooney, Van Persie, Mata and Falcao are all world class strikers, and any talk of them being dropped or sold is ridiculous. They will come good and start scoring again you can be certain of that, you only have to look at their records to squash any doubts.
van Persie & Rooney need to click.
Once the team is playing at the right tempo the strikers will find their stride and the goals. But all the players need to produce a high standard week in week out.

So after three months we are not where we want to be. But I firmly believe that in van Gaal we have a manager that will do everything to stamp his mark on this great club, and that this has been a teething period. United have traditionally come alive after the new year but with a new manager, new players and a new system we will have to wait and see. He will be judged next May and I predict a top four finish and a good run in the FA cup. If I'm right all will be happy at United, but if I'm wrong when does Pep Guardiola's contract finish?

Enjoy the rest of the season and remember United never do it the easy way.

Miles Dunton.