After spending nearly £100 million in the summer, Manchester United fans began the season dreaming of silverware, and it appeared the turmoil of David Moyes’s reign had finally been shaken off, and they appeared ready to challenge on the European stage once again.
Fast forward to December however, and the Red Devils are out of the Champions League and are playing the blandest football many United fans have witnessed in their lifetime.
It has been a week from hell for the Red Devils, and after Saturday’s defeat to newly promoted Bournemouth, supporters, pundits and ex-players alike are calling for the head of Louis van Gaal, who despite some success, has confused the football world with some of his choices at the Old Trafford helm.
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Below are his four most confusing decisions as Manchester United manager (so far, at least…)
Subbing Nick Powell on for Juan Mata against Wolfsburg
Van Gaal has a reputation as one of most proactive managers in world football when it comes to substitutions.
As Ajax manager, he brought an 18-year-old Patrick Kluivert off the bench in the 1995 Champions League final against Milan to score the winner within 15 minutes of entering the fray, and his decision to bring Tim Krul on for Jesper Cillessen for the Netherlands World Cup quarter-final penalty shoot-out against Costa Rica was a tactical masterstroke.
Substituting his main creative threat in a must-win game, for a player deemed ‘nowhere near full fitness’ by United Under-21s coach Warren Joyce and whose last appearance for the club came in the 4-0 mauling at the hands of MK Dons 16 months ago, however, was not.
The failure to sign a centre-back in the Summer
Van Gaal’s pursuit of Sergio Ramos was well known in the summer transfer window, and clearly showed his intent to sign a world-class defender to bolster the Red Devils' threadbare back four. The decision to play Daley Blind as a centre-back only came in after the Old Trafford side’s pre- season victory over Club America, and while the pairing of Blind alongside Chris Smalling appeared near-impenetrable at the beginning of the campaign, the former Fulham man is incredibly susceptible to injury as is Phil Jones.
After Smalling’s recent groin injury, United were forced to play a back four of Guillermo Varela, Paddy McNair, Blind and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson in the weekend's defeat to Bournemouth; leaving United with a back-line that looks more League Cup than Premier League...
Playing Angel Di Maria as a striker
Di Maria was the man of the match for in the 2014 Champions League final and thrived at Real Madrid under the management of Carlo Ancelotti playing on the right of the midfield three in a 4-3-3 system.
Under Jose Mourinho at Real, he played on the right wing, where he is also blossoming for PSG in Ligue 1 this season, boasting four goals and nine assists in just 13 games.
To splash nearly £60 million on one of the best attacking midfielders in the world, to play him as a lone striker baffled and angered United fans in equal measure- especially with Wayne Rooney playing in a centre-midfield.
Letting so many strikers leave
Van Gaal’s side have scored just 21 league goals this season, the same amount as Crystal Palace and Southampton, and less than West Ham.
Rooney is looking a shadow of his former self, and is currently going through his worst ever ratio in a single PL campaign (two goals in 1050 mins).
While the £36 million signing of Anthony Martial has undoubtedly been a success, and he already has six goals this season the Frenchman is currently on a drought of nine league games without finding the net. However, it must not be forgotten that forward is still just 20-years-old.
The Dutchman sanctioned the sales of Robin van Persie (six goals in 19 this campaign), Javier Hernandez (17 in 20) and Angelo Henriquez (8 in 15) in the summer transfer window, and allowed James Wilson to leave for Brighton and Hove Albion on a season-long loan, who has scored in two of his four appearances for the Seagulls so far. Surely United would have scored more if they had kept these forwards on their books.