Newcastle United v Manchester United
Wednesday 4 March 7.45pm Live On BT Sport
Who Manages The Visitors?
In the eyes of Louis van Gaal, everything is judged by size, but the Dutchman has a reputation for being a lucky manager rather than a big one, though it may be that he is lucky to be bracketed amongst the best managers in the world and the only thing that is big about him is his head.
His all-conquering Ajax team of the mid-90s was a special team but since then he’s been more of a big talker than a big achiever and he started from the off at Manchester United:
“I could have easily gone to Spurs. But I chose the biggest challenge of all the jobs in football. And I really wanted to join the number one club in the country, not Tottenham.”
He moved on a touch by calling Manchester United ‘the biggest club in the world’ so by now, eight months later, they must be the biggest club in any world, including all of the ones in Minecraft and Clash of the Clans. He has handled ‘big challenges’ before of course, claiming that taking over at the Red Devils after David Moyes was not easier than taking over from Alex Ferguson because:
“I had to follow Bobby Robson at Barcelona. In that year he won three titles. I had to succeed him.”
Of course the titles that Bobby Robson won weren’t the titles that Barcelona wanted him to win, not La Liga and the Champions League.
Louis loves to take the credit for everything. He took the credit for bringing on Tim Krul in a World Cup penalty shoot-out in Brazil in 2014:
“It worked out. That was beautiful. I’m a bit proud of that.”
Fair enough, good thinking, but when Argentina then beat Holland in the semi-final penalty shoot-out he also took the credit for that:
“I taught (Argentinian) Romero how to stop penalties [at Alkmaar], so that hurts.” the then Holland coach said.
Pointedly ignoring that his own keeper didn’t save any penalties, partly because his penalty shoot-out confidence was shattered by being subbed before the last one.
None of which has affected the myth that van Gaal knows what he is doing, probably because he has since claimed the credit for everything that has anything to do with football, including taking the credit for teaching Alan Pardew to take the credit for everything. Just as well Pardew isn’t still in charge of the TOON, both managers would have taken the credit for the victory no matter who won.
The myth doesn’t stop at the end of van Gaal’s tongue either: ‘Maybe Louis does have a golden willy’, said Arjen Robben during the World Cup, of course referring to Van Gaal’s reputation as a lucky manager. No one here is talking about van Gaal’s willy though. We’re all talking about his balls. And they are very long. And usually on top of Marouane Fellaini’s head.
Who have They Bought?
Having spent over a £150million in the summer, you’d think van Gaal would be doing better than hoping to finish above Southampton and talking about everyone ‘taking time to settle in’, for all the comparisons between van Gaal and Mourinho, I can’t imagine Jose coming out with platitudes more like a Taylor Swift single than a world-class motivator.
Perhaps it is because the players Manyoo bought in the summer have not seemed genuinely up for it and van Gaal has been burnt before spending a load of money and getting nowhere. A disastrous 2002 return to Barcelona where the Dutchman insisted on punting superstar Rivaldo and replacing him with super-mullet Riquelme ended in January 2003, Barca were 12th, van Gaal sacked and Rivaldo on his way to winning the Champions League with AC Milan.
Similar things are happening at Manyoo, good players though most of them are, Man Utd’s signings have been either ‘too ugly for Real Madrid’ in the case of £59.7million Angel Di Maria (PHOTO:
Angel Di Maria: Too ugly for Real Madrid)
or ‘too easy to play against’ Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco.
Di Maria was a strange signing for the Reds:
“I have bought Di Maria because he can play inside and wide. It’s very handy,” commented van Gaal.
Handy? I don’t think so Louis, the Cooper household has a hallway bowl of change which we dip into when needing money to park the car in town. That’s handy. Spending that kind of money on a player who is full of confidence having won the Champions League and got to a world cup final during the summer starring from a central position, and treating him like a utility player or moving him onto the wing to accommodate Daley Blind, £13.8million from Ajax, well that’s not handy, it is stupid.
All of those signings should be in the squad today, as will ‘too fat to play’ Luke Shaw from Southampton for £27million, £16million left sided defender Marcus Rojos and £30million signing from Bilbao Ander Herrera, the signing of the Basque midfielder a typical modern football story.
After a couple of unsuccessful bids from David Moyes in 2013, Herrera eventually paid the £30million contract buy-out clause to Athletic Bilbao himself, allowing Manchester United to sign him. He must have plenty of money if he had £30million hanging around in his bank account, which I’m sure has absolutely nothing to do with allegations of match-fixing in a game in which Herrera played between Levante and Real Zaragoza in Valencia in 2011. It was a game which Zaragoza won to avoid relegation and the word on the calle in Valencia is that the match wasn’t completely legitimate. All of which will be a pressure on Herrera’s mind even though he probably isn’t the cause of any of the suspicion individually, something which van Gaal hinted at this week:
“The environment [around] a human being is very important,” he said. “When it is like that he [Herrera] will be influenced.”
Well if the environment around him today has got the likes of Smalling, Jones and Fellaini around him, let’s hope it influences him to be as average as they are.
How Will They Do This Season?
This week John Carver has said that Kevin Keegan’s ‘Entertainers’ have made it more difficult for Newcastle managers since, because under KK we almost achieved something, which says more about Carver’s belief in his ability than I ever could. Our opponents today have similar troubles though, England coach Gary Neville claimed this season that Manyoo were ‘no better than a pub team’ and van Gaal’s ‘best display of the season’ quote after a 2-2 draw at West Brom hardly makes the reds sound like world-beaters. Which they are not.They might be fourth today, but I wouldn’t bet on them finishing there come May.
A mixture of formation changes has led to indifferent results and an acknowledgement from van Gaal that the players are taking a while to get used to his ‘philosophy’. The Dutchman may see buying Blind, Rojos, Shaw and Di Maria for the same left-sided positions as a problem of philosophy, or having to play your best striker in midfield as a philosophical issue, or perhaps launching long balls onto the head of super-frizz Fellaini in the last minute of every game as something the players have to get used to, but it is as far a cry away from their ‘entertainers’ as the current NUFC squad is away from ours.
(IMAGE: Harold Bishop from Neighbours. The one after the Chosen One.)
This week Peter Schmeical said that van Gaal was right to use ‘boring long-ball tactics’ to get results and the Daily Mail reported that van Gaal has told his players to cut down on the number of backpasses to keeper David De Gea after booing from the Old Trafford fans.
Theatre of Dreams eh? Sounds more like Stoke City. At the start of the season van Gaal said:
“I really want to bring the championship here to the people of Man United.”
Well give him time and you never know. They’ve got too many points to get relegated this season but another five left backs in the summer and they could be battling it out with the Mackems for a seat on next season’s bus to Rotherham.
Are We Going to Win?
Though the press have pointed to his success using 4-4-2 this season, Louis van Gaal has claimed that it gives him a ‘squeaky bum’, his preference for a more controlling 3-5-2. It’s unlikely that the result of this game will come down to tactics though, more likely which team defends the worst and van Gaal may well think that having ‘3’ defenders on the pitch gives you 25% less chance of a calamitous mistake than having ‘4’.
While Man Utd obviously have more and better players who can score goals than we have, despite biggest git Robin Van Persie being out with an ankle injury, defensively Manyoo are all over the shop and totally reliant on keeper De Gea to keep any score down.
It might be worth NUFC taking a look at the entertainers manual and focussing on attacking today, taking advantage of the defensive uncertainty which has blighted Manchester United’s season so far. Certainly we have more chance of scoring goals against a team with the likes of Evans, Smalling and Jones at the back than we do of shutting out a team with Rooney, Falcao and Di Maria up front.
Below is my idea of the team selection and formation tonight.
Sing the lads to victory today. Forget the philosophy and do things simple. Not Howay 5-0, Howay 4-4-2 or Howay 3-5-2. Just Howay the Lads.
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