Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has defended his decision to substitute French youngster Anthony Martial in last night’s 1-0 Champions League win over CSKA Moscow.
The decision proved to be vindicated as Wayne Rooney scored the 79th minute winner after being switched to a central striking position.
The Red Devils boss has been criticised for his team’s style of play in recent weeks, most notably by United legend Paul Scholes, who said he would not have enjoyed playing in the current United team.
On the defensive
Much like some of United’s football in recent weeks, Van Gaal was on the defensive when it came to questions about the fans booing his decision to take substitute Martial. Asked if he heard the crowds booing in his post-match press conference the experienced Dutchman answered:
“Of course, I am not deaf. That is the opinion of the fans. Afterwards they shall not be disappointed by the decision of the manager.
On moving Rooney up front he said “I’m very happy because I put him again in the striker’s position and he scored.”
The substitution is not the first time that Red Devils fans have questioned Van Gaal’s tactics this season, as the Red Devils have produced some dull football at times.
Van Gaal will argue that the team’s style of play has won them points and kept them around the top of the Premier League table. However, United fans will have expected more from their team than just grinding out results this season.
The club have spent a fortune in the last few transfer windows bringing in players to strengthen their squad, with much of that money being spent on attacking players. Yet United have been producing far from attractive football at times this season.
Talented attacking options
The summer additions of attacking players Anthony Martial and Memphis Depay should have turned United into an exciting team to watch. The presence of Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera meant that Van Gaal had lots of different attacking options.
Martial has impressed since his big money summer move from Monaco and is now regarded by many United fans as the team’s most effective attacking player. In recent weeks he has been employed in a left-wing role, a role he is not unfamiliar with, much to the annoyance of United fans.
He started up front against CSKA Moscow, with Rooney playing in the hole behind. It was not till the Martial substitution though that Van Gaal’s team made a breakthrough.
Depay has struggled to live-up to his price tag this season, maybe believing too much of the hype from last season when he was PSV Eindhoven’s star performer. The youngster has found it tough in a higher standard of league.
Even without Depay though, the likes of Mata, Herrera, Rooney and Martial should represent a formidable attacking force that would scare any opposition team. Instead, whether it is Van Gaal’s often defensive tactics or the players under-performing it is just not happening for United.
Van Gaal’s cautious tactics has led to an increase in clean sheets and a better defensive record, but Red Devils fans do not go to Old Trafford to see David de Gea and co. keep clean sheets. They go to watch their team score goals and for entertainment.
At the end of the day football is about entertainment and is not just about keeping solid, then hoping that chances come the team’s way at the other end of the pitch.
In fairness against CSKA and some other recent matches the United full-backs have been pushed-up the field, but that is because the Red Devils play with two defensive midfielders. This is a familiar system in the English top-flight and the Dutch boss went with a slightly more positive formation in last night’s win.
Are United progressing?
This question is difficult to answer. United are in a better position than under David Moyes, but that has arguably been achieved by spending big in the transfer market, rather than any great managerial skill from Moyes’ successor.
It seems that with the amount of money spent by the club in the summer, the majority of United fans believe that their team should be challenging for the Premier League title. It’s only logical really.
It also seems that Louis van Gaal, despite spending so much of the clubs money, has lesser ambitions and believes just finishing in the top four is good enough this season, which obviously differs from the fans views.
For me Van Gaal has been a good manager in the past, but he may never be able to get the best out of his current team and is unlikely to ever fulfil the fans ambitions of recapturing the clubs former glories of winning the Premier League title.
The Dutchman may bring decent results, but it appears he is now unable to ally entertaining football with winning football and it will not be too long until his critics number even more of the united support.
Can Louis van Gaal produce attacking football at United?