Manchester United’s adept display in a 1-0 defeat against Southampton at Old Trafford on Saturday summed-up their season.
United boss Louis van Gaal has come in for some fierce criticism this season, from myself included.
Yesterday’s defeat against the Saints left the Red Devils five points behind fourth-place Spurs in the table and leaving United looking like anything but challengers for the Premier League title this season.
Van Gaal has had a highly-successful career in European football, so he is not exactly Mike Bassett. He has a good track record and a big reputation, so United’s current performance, if not style is surprising.
Lacking attacking threat
It seems strange that a team with Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Juan Mata are struggling goals, but the Red Devils struggled to even threaten Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster’s goal, with the only real danger caused by an effort from Daley Blind, not exactly inspiring stuff.
Van Gaal’s tactics and style may be one of the causes of the struggles, but the tactics cannot be completely blamed for United’s poor displays in front of goal. The likes of Rooney and Martial are players who would score in most teams.
However, they are not currently doing the business for the Red Devils and it means their team are not worrying many opposition teams.
A very good defence
Manchester United have major injury problems in defence, yet their saving grace this season is their defence. England international Chris Smalling has enjoyed a superb campaign in the heart of the backline.
Only Tottenham have conceded fewer goals in the Premier League this season, so their defence is obviously doing their job right.
They say that offense wins games and defence wins championships and Van Gaal obviously buys into that philosophy. The Dutchman’s tactics will help the team keep clean sheets, which is a good thing, but his team are not scoring enough goals and that means they are not going to win many games.
Van Gaal can see he needs his team to find the right balance, because they are the lowest scorers in the top eight of the Premier League. The United defence is usually solid enough to give the players in front of them the confidence to take a few chances in pushing forward.
Money poorly spent
It was evident that the Manchester United squad needed a major overhaul when Louis van Gaal arrived at the club 18 months ago. The Dutchman has brought in a lot of players and spent a lot of money.
With the amount of money that the experienced boss has spent the Red Devils should be challenging for the Premier League title. Other teams have spent far less money, but look far more capable of challenging for the title.
Tottenham is the perfect example of how money was spent wisely in the last few transfer windows with the arrival of the likes of Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld and highly-rated England midfielder Dele Alli.
Tottenham paid less than £17million to sign the pair. Both have proven key players and have helped Spurs mount a challenge for a top four place at least this season. United spent £30million on Dutch winger Memphis Depay and we all know which team got the better value for money in their transfer dealings.
The Red Devils have spent hundreds of millions to stay still, while other teams around them have spent well and progressed. Arguably United are no nearer to challenging for the Premier League title now than they were when Van Gaal first arrived in Manchester.
In fact they are now odds of 11/8 to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season and if the Red Devils continue to struggle those odds will lengthen.
Van Gaal has been defensive in the media of late about his team and his position at the club. The majority of United fans were unhappy with the team’s performance and they have a right to be.
Not only did their side suffer a defeat, but they were offered very little in the way of entertainment from their team. There is only so long that the Red Devils fans can play so ineffectively and Van Gaal stay in his job at Old Trafford, because United fans have simply lost patience with the Dutchman.
Are Louis van Gaal’s tactics to blame for United’s struggles?