Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal's attempt to explain away another dreary performance in his post-match press conference following yesterday's 1-1 draw with West Ham United was in some ways more mystifying than the 90 minutes itself.
"[I told the team] we need the guts to play football along the floor and that is what we have done in the second half," Van Gaal said.
You have to wonder if Van Gaal's deluded enough to genuinely believe that statement, because the last 20 minutes at Upton Park featured a siege full of long diagonal passes towards Marouane Fellaini and precious little else.
Van Gaal is lucky there's clearly a strong spirit and mentality to succeed among his expensively assembled squad, because a run of one defeat in 17 matches barely begins to scratch the surface of what's going wrong at Old Trafford.
United are playing with a complete lack of fluency, their top stars are being played out of position consistently and above all the Red Devils are painful to watch at the moment, despite being fourth in the Premier League table.
That might seem like an extreme overreaction at this moment in time, but given that Van Gaal had a club record £150 million to spend last summer his efforts to build a cohesive, forward-thinking United side continue to come across as utterly bewildering.
Clearly Van Gaal has a major difference in opinion with United fans, analysts and the vast majority of the print media over how best to use Wayne Rooney for starters.
Rooney has been used in midfield for 16 of his 20 appearances in the Premier League this season, but United are still failing miserably to get the very best out of a natural goalscorer and the 1-1 draw with West Ham made that very clear.
The 29-year-old was used just to the right of a midfield diamond, presumably to take advantage of his keen eye for a pass and terrific work rate and desire to affect the game.
Statistics show he found it very difficult to do just that though, failing to connect with a single cross into the penalty area and successfully making just a single tackle in the entire 90 minutes.
A player of immense technical ability also failed to beat a man in the final third and more startlingly attempted to do just once, robbed in possession by Kevin Nolan of all people.
Van Gaal's stance on his skipper may be understandable if he had two strikers fit and firing on all cylinders, but Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie both continue to look well short of their very best in and that makes the Dutchman's thinking even more difficult to understand.
Di Maria's form also a huge concern
United supporters are clearly upset with the way Rooney is being used by Van Gaal, but perhaps they should be even more alarmed at the performances being churned out by £59.7m man Angel di Maria in recent weeks.
Di Maria looks a shadow of the player that dominated matches during the second half of last season at Real Madrid, thanks to a potent combination of precise passing and trickery under pressure in congested midfield areas.
The 26-year-old was used at the top of a midfield diamond at Upton Park but struggled desperately to influence the game, shut down effectively by Alex Song before finishing the game with a crossing remit on the left flank.
Van Gaal has also tried the Argentine superstar in attack this season and still doesn't appear to know the best place for his marquee summer signing, further complicating matters by adding Adnan Januzaj since the turn of the year.
You have to wonder what's been going on at United's Carrington training ground over the last two months, because creativity looks in very short supply despite there being a plethora of playmakers at Van Gaal's disposal.
Van Gaal should be more honest
Simply put Van Gaal is not practising what he preaches at this moment in time. On the surface he's at pains to insist there's a commitment to preserving long-help traditions at United to play fast, fluent football that excites the biggest crowd in the country where possible.
In reality the situation is very different, because when it suits Van Gaal is happy to look for that trusty long diagonal to Fellaini in search of instant success. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, football is a results business after all, but it smacks of arrogance that he's prepared to pretend that isn't his plan B.
Quite frankly the vast majority of United fans know better than to take what Van Gaal's insisting at face value, because the need to qualify for the Champions League this season overrides long-term concern over their playing style.
Spare a thought for previous boss David Moyes though, who would have surely been slated for adopting similar tactics to Van Gaal.
If Van Gaal continues down his current path Moyes will increasingly look like a man who was very hard done by at the Theatre of Dreams, because in an all honesty United are regressing on their current trajectory regardless of whether they finish in the top four.
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