When Louis van Gaal became the manager of Manchester United, he knew that the team had problems with a squad that lacked balance and quality in certain areas. Two matches into the season, and his attempts to make up for that with tactics that don’t seem to fit with the players he has makes it once again a team that completely relies on Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie, while a talented youngster like Adnan Januzaj gets wasted in a position that has nothing to do with him.
The funny thing about Van Gaal’s complaints after the first two matches? It’s not his tactics that are wrong, it’s the players. Just like David Moyes blamed players and quality for his own mistakes, a much better and experienced manager is going about it in the same way. Now he’s talking about a miracle, and no longer about the title he has promised in the next three seasons. Right now Manchester United don’t look like a team capable of finishing in the top four.
Sunderland, salvaging a 1-1 draw with an equalizer, were the better team for most of the match. With every minute that goes by we understand just how great of a manager Alex Ferguson was, and how much of a mess he left behind him when he entered retirement with another Premier League title. Van Gaal might know a lot more about tactics than Moyes, but he has come in with different expectations, and zero patience from Manchester United fans, who actually got a better start from a Scottish manager who began his Old Trafford tenure as ‘The Chosen One’.
The three man defense with players like Chris Smalling and Tyler Blackett isn’t functioning. Maybe as centre backs they’re fine, but in this system, with Ashley Young (!!!) supposedly covering them as a transformed wing back, they’re being set up to fail. Having the likes of Tom Cleverley and Darren Fletcher playing in front of them (forced due to injuries) didn’t really make things better.
Now that Angel di Maria is coming, Van Gaal will have to change his tactics, right? It’s quite interesting to hear him talk about unbalanced squads and then sign another player that adds to the inequality between the attacking side and the rest of the team. Di Maria might be solid when it comes to defense, but a 3-5-2 system doesn’t work when your wingers are mainly offensive players, especially with such a weak central midfield.
Manchester United are no different than Manchester City or Chelsea. They just had a figure like Alex Ferguson to make them look bigger and better than they really are. Maybe in the long run, Van Gaal will find the solutions to problems that seem disastrous at the moment. However, the lie of being one of the biggest clubs in football has been exposed, even if sponsors handing out ridiculous money haven’t caught on to it so far.