Louis van Gaal is not Rafa Benitez. The Manchester United manager, when producing his much-ridiculed 'dossier' yesterday in response to Sam Allardyce's claim that his side are a long-ball team, called his adversary 'Big Sam' and did so with a smile. Benitez's cheeks were flushed, his grip was tight and he referred to "Mr Ferguson' while reeling off his list of facts about perceived referee bias.
Even so his performance yesterday has been viewed by some as a meltdown. At the very least Van Gaal has been mocked for rising to Allardyce's bait, falling into a trap that had been so wilfully set.
As each copy of the four-page document was handed around to the assembled press the tweets about how foolish Van Gaal had been trickled through. With each mention of a long-ball percentage stat the mirth increased at the Dutchman's expense. Allardyce had gone fishing they said, and got himself a big one.
What nonsense. It says more about the puerile nature of most observers and their bandwagon-jumping lackeys that correcting publicly an incorrect statement made by someone with a high profile was seen as a 'bite'. It all felt a bit secondary school.
Is it really such a big deal that Van Gaal felt the need to respond to what he felt was a lie, whether it was designed to antagonise or not?
One man made a claim, another clearly demonstrated that the claim was wrong and used evidence to support his statement and somehow he is the big loser? If that happened in any other walk of life, would that be the response? Almost certainly not.
Instead of keeping to the facts of the matter, after yesterday's events there was the obligatory delve into the mind of Van Gaal by those armed with a degree in cod psychology.
Allardyce fired a missile into the weak point of the Death Star and it exploded. It turns out the Hammers manager hadn't lost his cool and lashed out. Sure he has a history of smugness but let's not over-think this; he was raw after a game and petulantly grasped for any crumb of comfort, which was achieved - not as some great masterplan - by deflecting the attention towards Old Trafford. As long as the story fits the idea of the narrative then that is all that matters.
The fact that Van Gaal has built on a career of tactical innovation and is heavily reliant on the minutiae of the game always made it more likely that he was going to respond, which he is perfectly entitled to do with out being subjected to some misplaced Freudian observation.
The upshot of him wheeling out his dossier may be increased short-term criticism but ultimately the matter has been put to bed. Manchester United did lump long balls to Marouane Fellaini by the end of their 1-1 draw with West Ham but it's plain for all to see they're not a long-ball team.
They play the second highest amount of short passes in the Premier League. They've played the most accurate long balls but played the 13th fewest inaccurate long balls. It seems they're living up to Bob Paisley's maxim: "It's not about the long ball or the short ball, it's about the right ball."
The fact it's on the agenda and being analysed so closely is down to Van Gaal's response, which surely shows that he was probably right to respond. Ultimately, whether he was right or wrong in what he was saying, Van Gaal was right to say whatever he felt appropriate without the tediously inevitable reaction.
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