Patience needed to allow LVG's 'rigid' philosophy to reap rewards at Manchester United

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Manchester United are currently third in the Premier League, one point off the summit and boast the best defensive record in the league - so what's the issue?

The issue, simply, is that this is Manchester United - it's not a case of if the team wins, it's how the team wins. The fans expect to be provided results and entertained whilst doing so.

Following a string of unsatisfactory performances - including a 0-0 at home to PSV in the Champions League - it was inevitable that more criticism was to follow for Louis van Gaal, most of which aimed not at the results themselves but the way the team has played.


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The Dutchman's side have been described as rigid yet boring, with cries of 'attack attack attack' coming regularly from supporters, frustrated at the lack of desire and risk shown by the Red Devils' attack-minded players.

One statistic that will be extremely worrying for United fans is that even bottom place Aston Villa have attempted more shots than them this season, and only three teams have tried their luck less times than United's 146 attempts.

Of these 146 attempts, the Red Devils have scored a mere 20 goals, their lowest tally in the last six seasons at this stage of a campaign.

Red Devils fanzine 'United We Stand' recently led with the headline "It's not what you do it's how you do it" - and it's this legacy that many feel Van Gaal is sapping from the team. A club showered in success, it's the exciting and courageous brand of football that has made it one of the most loved across the globe.

However, under Van Gaal, United have become the most solid, well constructed team in defence and possession in the league. Their ball retention is top of the league, averaging 55% possession per game.

Another impressive improvement is their home record, which sees them undefeated in the league so far this season. A source of criticism under David Moyes, it seems the new regime has managed to restore fear and authority at the Theatre of Dreams.

But even ex-players such as Gary Neville are torn between results and style, as he explained in his recent podcast for Sky Sports: "I'm torn with Manchester United. The heart, the fan [in me] is listening to the noise.

"The head is saying: 'There's a lot of very good things, if you can dominate every single game, with 60, 65 per cent possession, if you can keep the clean sheets and have the best defensive record in the league'."

As painful as it must be for fans to see a team once so domineering now putting in performances so bereft of ideas and creativity, there is enough being shown to promise that patience will bring reward.

The revitalisation of Chris Smalling is nothing short of phenomenal whilst the bleeding through of youth such as Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira and James Wilson - among others - gives much hope for the future of the team.

If the Van Gaal can develop Anthony Martial into a centre forward, whilst utilising the dynamism and creativity of Ander Herrera and Juan Mata, things could start to improve in the final third.

Let's not forget United are historically better after the Christmas break and if things start to gel up front, they can certainly be strong title contenders. 

Premier League
Manchester United

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