Louis van Gaal’s continued reign as Manchester United manager seems to be an endless topic in the media’s spotlight. Constant stories about whether the club’s results have been good enough, if Van Gaal understands the traditional, attacking style of United, or if the £250 million in transfers has been well spent, have been splattered over media throughout the season. Yet there is no doubt that the Dutchman has steadied the ship since the calamitous tenure of David Moyes.
When Van Gaal took over, and even after his first season, most critics had many problems with the manager’s decisions. What people seem to have forgotten, as more and more rumours have circled round is that, the issues once complained about, are no longer present, as Van Gaal is solving them. This evidence would suggest that with time, the manager is improving the team.
One such complaint was of Manchester United’s home form. In the Sir Alex Ferguson era, Old Trafford was considered a fortress, a place teams would come and be torn apart. It created a kind of aura about the stadium, almost a fear. However when the Scotsman left, that presence dissolved.
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However, since Van Gaal has taken over, United have only lost four games at home in the Premier League over the course of the two seasons. This shows the manager has returned some of the former consistency at the Theatre of Dreams, which once made them the best team in England.
Another complaint often fired United’s way, was their weak defence. Many people expected the manager to focus his funds into bringing in top quality centre-backs. Yet Marcos Rojo is the only player in that position to have been brought to the club. Many thought he wasn’t the calibre of player the Red Devils should be investing in, and as of last season, players such as Chris Smalling and Phil Jones weren’t considered quality enough.
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The start of this season seemed to bring the fans no optimism, as Van Gaal fielded the duo of Smalling and Daley Blind, a natural midfielder as his centre backs. Blind’s lack of pace and general experience in the position meant people were seriously worried about his capabilities.
Yet, with the campaign almost over, United have only leaked 30 goals in the league, with only Spurs conceding a lower total. Van Gaal has managed to stop a rot at the back and has built his season upon the solidity he has found in defence. Smalling has grown into one of the best defenders in the league, and Blind, despite his early critics, has been excellent at helping the team build from the back.
Youth has also proved to be a vital asset for the Dutchman. Manchester United claim to have an ethos of bringing home grown players through their system, personified by the infamous, Class of ’92. In recent times, players breaking through the system have become much fewer.
Louis van Gaal has seemed to enjoy the fruits of embracing this idea though, with players like Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah finding they are playing week after week for United. The manager has also handed first team debuts to many players, such as James Weir, Regan Poole and Donald Love to name a few.
There are still things that the manager has to fix. United still lack the attacking flair that fans expect from their players, although there have been signs of this being rectified after a string of exciting performances. If he is given the final year of his contract, Van Gaal could solve the problem of the Red Devil’s lack of goals, to bring a title back to the club.