herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Van Gaal uses fact to cover failings at United

Red Devils in trouble if the Dutchman believes he is making serious progress

Van Gaal shows his frustration during the defeat to Wolfsburg
Van Gaal shows his frustration during the defeat to Wolfsburg
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal faces the wrath from fans after last Tuesday night’s Champions League defeat to Wolfsburg

Louis van Gaal loves facts. He uses them as a shield when he's in trouble and for the gullible, the list which he claims demonstrates progress might even be convincing.

But I don't think many were taken in by his performance in front of the media after the truly chaotic defeat by Wolfsburg which ended Manchester United's interest in this season's Champions League and focused a very sharp spotlight on the Dutchman.

His 'facts' were only loosely connected with reality. The evidence of my own eyes tells me he is talking a lot of nonsense about his team.

This is what he said: "When you see the facts - we went further in the Capital One Cup, qualified for the Champions League group, we have played all these matches and are still in a very good position in the league.

"The facts say we are better than last year."

No they don't. The only statement which he can stand over is the one about progressing further in the Capital One Cup. That's a fact but not one I'd be quoting if I was a manager of one of the biggest clubs in the world.

The Capital One Cup is a dumping ground for reserve team players and returning injury victims. No manager should think of using it as a benchmark for progress.

Manchester United were awful for a large chunk of the six games they played in the Champions League and deserved what they got.

Playing badly on a regular basis and ending up in the Europa League cannot be seen as progress in my eyes.

Manchester United are fourth in the Premier League because every other team with title aspirations is in trouble or at the very least, more vulnerable to losing games against mid-table or even relegation-haunted opposition than in previous seasons.

Punished

In other words, the standard at the top has dropped. I don't think anyone could argue with that proposition and coupled with the fact that the pack have shown a general improvement and closed the distance, any weakness shown by the big clubs is being punished.

So it is no great achievement to be fourth in that scenario, especially with a huge amount of money invested in the team, more cash than any other club in England.

Reality, then, is very different than the picture van Gaal tried to create when he quoted his 'facts'.

He was bluffing, blustering and trying to maintain his authority but all he did was make me question him even more.

I watched Garry Monk, a lad starting out on the road in management and without the comfort of a well-padded CV in his back pocket, accept full responsibility for Swansea's woes before he was axed and he was a model of dignity and honesty after the event.

Monk calmly spoke about the reality of his responsibility for Swansea's results and didn't try to hide behind cherry-picked 'facts'. He took the blame.

Van Gaal was not dealing in reality even if he seemed to believe what he is saying. I understand that there are times when managers must mouth platitudes but the Dutchman can't have it both ways.

His self-belief borders on arrogance and when he speaks, he does so in a way which encourages no debate. His word is law and so, we must take what he says at face value.

If he truly believes Manchester United are making progress, the club is in deep trouble.

A particularly self-defeating and annoying habit van Gaal indulges in is his willingness to hang a player out to dry and he's not alone in the that over the last week.

Bastian Schweinsteiger is getting the full treatment from van Gaal but Jose Mourinho went a considerable step further when he blamed everyone for Chelsea's problems.

He blamed the players, the referees, unlucky decisions and included himself as just one piece of a jigsaw of responsibility for the fact that Chelsea are at their lowest ebb in many years.

This is the man who didn't hesitate to accept the bulk of the credit for winning titles and European Cups wherever he went.

This is the man who dived full length in front of his players to make sure he captured photographers attention for the traditional group photograph at Wembley after Chelsea won the Capital One Cup nine months ago.

Now, everyone has to accept their due amount of blame and Jose was quick to remind them.

No admission that his own behaviour has coloured Chelsea's season from the start and that the performance level of the players is a reflection of his work more than anyone else.

Pathetic and childish really.

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