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LVG’s first three months: the good and the bad

Angel-Di-Maria (1)Louis Van Gaal’s reign at Manchester United is three months and, as the third international break drags on and on, it’s time to reflect on some of the (early) positives and negatives we’ve seen so far…


Transfer business

United needed to make a strong statement of intent during the summer, having spent the previous transfer windows papering over the cracks, while direct rivals invested and rebuilt. Louis Van Gaal oversaw a £150m revolution and while the jigsaw is still some pieces short from being completed, the initial signs are positive, for we would have only dreamed to see the likes of Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao in a red shirt, while Daley Blind and Ander Herrera could and should develop into key members of the side.

David De Gea

Spanish Dave’s contribution to the cause in the first three months of the campaign has been nothing short of superb and the full impact of his absence is likely to be brutally felt at the Emirates on Saturday.

Courtesy of a back four as solid as melted butter, United have conceded 10.2 shots per game and while De Gea has conceded 14 goals in 11 games – of the teams in the top eight, only Newcastle have conceded more – five of them came in the capitulation against Leicester. The Spaniard was excellent against Chelsea and Manchester City and his heroics sealed a hard-fought win over Everton in October, but he desperately needs more protection.


Ironically, De Gea’s performances could be an issue in the short to medium term for United, with Real Madrid circling ever closer to Iker Casillas’ heir apparent and the sooner a new contract is put in front of the former Atletico Madrid man, the better.


United have not hit the ground running as we had hoped in the summer and have seldom produced the kind of attacking football many expected Van Gaal to deliver but they’re only two points off fourth spot which, for the time being at least, has to be the main target this season.

Add to that the fact United are clearly a team in transition that has been hampered by injuries and it’s not too far fetched to think that things should improve in the second half of the season, particularly if United build on the few promising signs we’ve seen so far.

The football might not have been breathtaking and the results have been largely disappointing but Van Gaal has already overseen a rather swift change of attitude in the team. Against Chelsea, the juggernaut that has steamrolled everything in its path this season, United looked the better team for 45 minutes and successfully forced a late equaliser, while despite playing with 10 men for over an half, Van Gaal’s men were a tad unlucky to come away empty handed from the Etihad.

Under Moyes, United would have folded like a pack of cards and the ability of grinding out results will be crucial this season, particularly as it’d be surprising to see Southampton, West Ham and Swansea – currently all ahead of United – lasting the distance.

Manchester-United-v-Chelsea (2)


Transfer business

For all the lavish spending, which might have sparked indignation in the media but which was also long overdue, United failed to address the deficiencies in their back four as the tiny hole that had emerged over the last few seasons became a crater of huge proportions following the departure of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic and the injury to Jonny Evans.

Considering the former two’s performances this season, it’s hard to fathom whether things would have been much different had they still been in the team, but the lack of experience in front of David De Gea is just as worrying as the chronic ineptitude that seem to pervade whoever is given the nod at the centre-back.

Marcos Rojo’s displays at the World Cup suggest he’s a better player than what we’ve seen so far but he also looks to be the sort of defender who needs to play alongside a world class centre-back if he’s to perform at his best. Evans, Jones and Smalling are not the answer and United must address the issue in January or they will have simply shifted their achilles heel from midfield to the defence.


Robin Van Persie

Yes, he has had fitness issues after the World Cup, yes he’s scored goals, yes he netted a last minute equaliser against Chelsea, but Robin Van Persie has been poor so far this season.

The Dutchman last season was a shadow of the player who piloted United to their 20th league title in the 2012-13 season but Van Gaal’s arrival was meant to be the turning point for RVP, particularly after his displays at the World Cup. Show us a red who didn’t get giddy at the sight of Van Gaal and Van Persie embracing each other after the latter’s stunning finish against Spain and we’ll show you a liar.

Things, unfortunately, haven’t quite worked out that way, with RVP looking a largely peripheral figure so far, struggling to play alongside Falcao and failing to lead the line by himself. It might well be that to be at his most effective RVP needs a fit and firing Falcao to open space up for him but, if that’s the case, he might be waiting a long while, given the Colombian’s struggle to return to full fitness.


Just what exactly do our players do in training? Hurl rocks at each other while trying to escape Phil Jones’ tackles? Lie on the ground while Anderson walks over them?

United have suffered 38 injuries so far, a staggering figure over the course of a season, let alone after just 11 games. Injuries are, of course, part of the game but Van Gaal’s job has been made incredibly more complicated by the raft of injuries that have deprived him of crucial elements in midfield and of the entire back four.

Marcos Rojo

Injuries have not only forced Van Gaal to constantly change his system, thus making it more complicated for players to familiarise with a particular formation, they’ve also depleted his options off the bench.

A fully fit United team is surely better than the one we’ve witnessed in the first 11 games of the season.