herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Louis ploughs on while fans depart early

Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal

What would George Best make of it all? Candles and smartphones sparkled in the stands to mark the tenth anniversary of his passing and they were comfortably the brightest thing on show at a subdued Old Trafford.

He would have hated Louis van Gaal's Manchester United against PSV and hardcore fans must cover their eyes when they watch their team these days, if they can stay awake.

But that would mean nothing to the Dutchman. He might even find it challenging. Van Gaal lives in the here and now and Best is only a memory after all.

Van Gaal may be the greatest spoofer of all time but it's working for him, and better now than at any time before in 16 months he's been at the Theatre of Dreams.

Pattern

They are very hard to watch, though. The pattern which marks so many games at Old Trafford repeated. A frontal assault by Memphis Depay and Jesse Lingard, with Wayne Rooney adrift and no midfield creativity, followed by Marouane Fellaini and the direct route.

When that didn't work it was dig in and make sure PSV, by far the more adventurous team on the night, didn't hit them with a sucker-punch goal.

This 0-0 draw means that qualification for the next phase is still in play and Van Gaal will need a big result against Wolfsburg in Germany.

But the biggest concern for Manchester United's owners was the flow of fans away from their seats with as much as ten minutes still to play. Such a thing was unthinkable in Ferguson's time.

After Van Gaal watched his team huff and puff against PSV, he at least had the pleasure of viewing the highlights which documented City's troubles against Juve in Turin.

Van Gaal knew from the start that he would be doing fine if he could silence the noisy neighbours and if he could somehow push above them in the Premier League table, he wouldn't be far from the top.

After the battering they took from Liverpool, Manuel Pellegrini wanted a fight from his players and two wins to top their Champions League group.

He wanted to steer clear of Barcelona in the knockout draw if at all possible but what he got was another defeat to add to the scars left by Jurgen Klopp.

Pellegrini should note that it was a whipping from Liverpool back in March 2014 which hastened the end of David Moyes and sent Ed Woodward out looking for a management whale.

Rival

He got Van Gaal and while Manchester United purists find themselves offended by the way he's doing it, the Dutchman is doing something right and his crosstown rival is struggling.

Mario Mandzukic did the damage with an early goal which leaves Pellegrini further wounded.

Nobody expected Van Gaal would have the opportunity to move above everyone by beating Leicester, but so it transpires.

And although Premier League punting is an exercise for brave souls in this anything goes season, there will be a lot of money pushing Manchester United towards the summit on Saturday.

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