Louis van Gaal’s decision to hand out a so-called ‘dossier’ to journalists following accusations that his Manchester United side resorted to long-ball tactics against West Ham on Sunday afternoon is proof that the veteran Dutch coach is feeling the pressure.
And as well he should be. The Red Devils have, for the most part, played dull, lifeless and uninspiring football since his arrival at Old Trafford last summer.
Van Gaal’s appointment was supposed to herald the return of the swashbuckling attacking style synonymous with Sir Alex Ferguson’s 26-year spell in charge of the Red Devils after a dismal season under David Moyes. The return of football taught by Matt Busby - that sort of thing.
But even using the word pragmatic to describe Manchester United’s football under Van Gaal would be a little generous.
It’s been boring and, in fact, it’s difficult to pick out a single entertaining performance under Van Gaal’s stewardship. There was the 4-0 win over a dreadful Queens Park Rangers side in September, and the 3-0 win over an out-of-sorts Liverpool team in December.
Other than that United’s football has been terrible to watch - and Sunday was no different.
Rafa Benitez comparisons
Van Gaal’s decision to try and defend United’s indefensible tactics against the Hammers has led to him being compared to former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, whose ‘fact’ rant against Ferguson in 2009 proved to be the beginning of the end for the Spanish coach at Anfield.
Could today’s press conference gaffe signal the beginning of the end for Van Gaal at Old Trafford?
The look on the Manchester United press officer’s face when she handed out the document to surprised journalists said it all. This was completely petty - and the experienced Van Gaal should have batted away Sam Allardyce’s criticism without feeling the need to produce a document which could come back to haunt him.
Stats aren't kind on Man United
Ironically, the statistics in the document don’t exactly portray Manchester United’s football in a particularly positive light.
It shows that 24.4 per cent of United’s passes were long balls - a higher percentage than West Ham’s - while almost 50 per cent of their 83 total long balls were played forwards.
So that’s 41 long balls forward and only one scrappy goal to show for it. Surely the Manchester United stats department could have produced a more convincing document.
Then again, they probably couldn’t.
Manchester United are resorting to long-ball tactics during matches - and as much as Van Gaal believes otherwise, he can’t pull the wool over our eyes with the aid of a dossier which proves the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach is starting to feel the heat.
Will Louis van Gaal still be in charge of Manchester United next season? Have your say in the comments below.