Sunday 14 February 2016

Are Manchester United fans asking enough questions of Ed Woodward & the Board

I am amazed at the amount of bile directed at Louis Van Gaal by Manchester United fans and its legends especially those paragon of virtue – Gary Neville in his previous role as resident football expert at Sky Sports, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes.

I can bet Mr. Neville is now deservedly regretting some of the opinions he held about LvG. How is that humble pie Gary? Goes down well with some Talk is cheap beer you know.

I’m sure Paul Scholes will now never make the same mistake as Gary despite repeated attempts by Oldham to get him to manage them. As for Rio, he can talk cant he. He was so good as a player and his career finished on a wonderful high at QPR.

Isn’t it amazing that it is now accepted wisdom that fans and players turn pundits are considered suitable judges when it comes to evaluating coaches and managers?  Great. That 10 year career you spent in the top flight taking instructions, been told what to do, understanding your patch on the field, having a reputation as ‘thicko’ all of a sudden means you know it all. Great.  

But I am sorry I disagree. Fans and e players are not and have no qualification to do so whatsoever. Often their cheap opinions are targeted at the wrong person. In Manchester United’s case, the wrong person is LvG and all the opprobrium should be directed at Ed Woodward.

Louis Van Gaal is no Zinedine Zidane or Teddy Sheringham. Distinguished players in their time who are making their way in the game as managers. LvG comes with a coaching pedigree that started with his first full managerial appointment in 1991. For those with dodgy maths, that’s 25 years ago. He has since coached topsides of comparative pedigree to Manchester United – Barcelona, Bayern Munich & Ajax Amsterdam.

He is no novice and comes with a fully formed football philosophy that is possession based and builds its team to ensure they are difficult to break down.  In his last managerial post before Man U, the Dutch purists embodied by Johan Cruyff were bitterly against LvG. He didn’t give a monkey’s and it is fair to say LvG & his Dutch side over performed at the last World Cup.

In addition, LvG comes with a fully developed headmaster type personality. It didn’t start today. That’s him and he is not changing it for anybody. Not even United.  

Realizing all of these and wanting to manage a club side again, LvG. was in well-advanced discussions with Tottenham Hotspurs of Middlesex only for Manchester United to hijack those talks and appoint LvG. What exactly do you expect when you appoint the Coach of Spurs? Now you are coveting the guy that was appointed instead.

I hope discerning, genuine and right thinking Man U fans can see that the real issues are as follows:

Someone / some people at Board level decided / agreed that Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill should retire at the same time. Where was the succession planning at Board and football management level?  

Some people at Board level decided that David Moyes should be the new long-term manager of Manchester United

Some people at Board level could not sign the players that David Moyes wanted at the start of his first season

Some people at Board level ended up paying £4m more for Marouane Fellaini than Everton initially wanted for him

Some people at Board level were horrible with the handling of the David Moyes sacking and didn’t have the decency to inform the man before briefing the media

Some people at Board level noticed all of LvG’s pedigree and still appointed him as manager and don’t have the guts to come out and say that they are comfortable with LvG’s handling of the team as long as results are delivered

Going by the recent comments by Ed Woodward on the last investors call, Some people at Board level were obviously comfortable with the way LvG uprooted many fan favorites and local boys from Old Trafford as the club’s focus is now on World Class or near world class players.

Instead of fans to direct their ire and bile at the board and specifically at Ed Woodward, the focus has very much been on Louis Van Gaal.  Once you get your wish with LvG’s sacking, just watch out after the new manager has been appointed because I consider United’s issues are institutional i.e. with the current board / Ed Woodward and not necessarily with the manager.

Yes football results are LvG’s responsibility but results are inevitable outcomes of many behind the scene issues, club management is one of these. Is it a coincidence that the newspapers carried a story about player unhappiness at the looming appointment of Jose Mourinho and United all of a sudden revert back to a type that we have not seen for a few weeks.

Yes LvG has been perhaps deservedly beaten with the ‘he spent £250m stick’. What does £250m even get you nowadays? Another football philosopher by name Brendan Rodgers spent nearly £300m in his time at Liverpool and won the square root of bugger all. That’s £50m than Louie Van Gaal Army. Yes Liverpool got top 4 one season and are now comfortably ensconced in mid table obscurity. Despite nearly winning the bloody thing.  LVG has outperformed Liverpool despite the extra money spent by Brendan Rodgers. I wonder if those shouting obscene abuse at LvG will like to swap places with Liverpool FC right now.

Or take a look at Manchester City squad, £130m+ for De Bruyne, Sterling, Otamendi and Mangala. In my opinion, young Tony Martial has outperformed that lot. None of the United’s defensive signings are as awful as anything Otamendi and Mangala conspire to serve up.

Stop beating LvG on the head with the spending as players are somewhat overpriced and in this spending plenty to get rubbish race, United are not exceptional or unique.

Finally I think the problem of the current squad is in attack and not in the overall squad. Interestingly LvG has said the same thing in one of his press conferences recently. For a bit of background, you can read a quick comparison of the last title winning United squad and the current crop here . The writer is of the opinion that the forward options were better in Sir Alex’ last squad.

In that last title win for United, that squad conceded 43 goals in 38 matches, an average of 1.13 per match and was the joint 5th best defence that season. The current lot have conceded 24 goals in 26 matches, a better average at 0.923 and they are currently joint 3rd alongside Southampton but behind Tottenham and Arsenal who have played one game less than United.

In my opinion the problems are upfront and the solution is not obvious. United signed two of the best up and coming striking talents last season. None of the beastly recognized / world class forwards moved in the last 2 transfer seasons. I can just imagine the uproar at the start of the season if LvG had presented Jamie Vardy as his top striking acquisition. H would have been absolutely slaughtered.

Really I implore United fans to be a bit more grown up and matured by turning the narrative away from LvG. He has delivered what it says on the tin. Any other issues are perhaps due to your expectations mismatch with the product.

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