herald

Monday 18 December 2017

John Giles: Falcao is right to question confused van Gaal

Luckless striker's confidence is leaking away and his boss must carry the can

Radamel Falcao has scored just four goals for Manchester United
Radamel Falcao has scored just four goals for Manchester United
Louis van Gaal, pictured, has defended his decision to leave out Radamel Falcao

RADAMEL Falcao doesn't do pantomime very well and has taken a lot of stick for his mole-eyed response to Louis van Gaal's decision to substitute him against Preston but I think every Manchester United player on the pitch that night had reason to look confused.

I'm confused by Louis van Gaal and I've already mentioned that fact on more than one occasion, stretching all the way back to the World Cup in Brazil.

The subject of my confusion during Holland's ultimately failed but still worthy attempt to win the tournament was Wesley Sneijder and the fact that van Gaal seemed unwilling to play a supremely gifted playmaker in that role.

In fact, I never quite pinned down where Sneijder was supposed to be playing and I'm pretty sure the player himself was equally bewildered. He was largely infective in the competition but what wasn't his fault.

The reason I mention Sneijder is because I think something very similar is unfolding with Falcao. I remember watching him destroy Chelsea in the Uefa Super Cup and thinking that this is a lad with fantastic ability.

SHARP

That night I watched him, he looked strong, athletic and had a sharp striker's instinct. When I heard van Gaal had won the race to sign him from Monaco, I thought he would be a big success in the Premier League.

He has been anything but that and the situation reached a head during the Preston game when he put on his best quizzical face and sent a message to his boss (see left). I believe he was displaying the same confusion I feel.

I have to repeat that I have time for van Gaal. I love his blunt willingness to face reality and while he does stray from the righteous path every so often and talks nonsense, most of the time he calls it straight.

I believe him when he claims he has tried a range of different systems and still hasn't settled on the right one but I have to say, when I hear things like that from any manager, my antennae go up straight away.

When that manager happens to be the boss at Old Trafford who has a big CV and an even bigger ego, I wonder what Alex Ferguson is thinking right now. He only had one system. Win.

Van Gaal is piling up results and apart from the huge contribution David de Gea is making, nobody can find a good explanation for it. By default, the Dutchman takes the credit.

Football is a dynamic sport which switches and changes a thousand times in ninety minutes. It is a very, very complex game which cannot be reduced to one 'system' or another.

But there is still a great simplicity to the fundamental requirement of any manager. Make sure his team is fit and his players are in their best positions.

How he reaches the point where his players are the visible and successful manifestation of his thoughts varies from manager to manager but if van Gaal is confused about the right way forward, his team will reflect that.

That's where we are with Manchester United and the biggest loser in all of this is Falcao. If I was him, I'd be wondering why the team was set up in a way which made my job very difficult. I would be very, very frustrated and thinking actively about a new club.

Falcao gets very little service when he plays and there were times against Preston when I was actually scratching my head wondering what job van Gaal wanted him to do.

It wasn't just Falcao. Across the pitch I could see no shape to Manchester United and only when van Gaal pushed Fellaini forward and brought Ashley Young on did they look in any way coherent.

I know both Fellaini and van Gaal were patting themselves on the back for delivering a goal at the back post from something they have practised a lot but the only reason it came about was because Young was on the pitch.

SYSTEMS

Van Gaal claims he has tried all sorts of systems but sticking Young and Angel di Maria out wide is not rocket science, particularly when you have a finisher like Falcao who thrives on such service.

Before Young came on, Manchester United had no shape. When he arrived, Manchester United were set up nicely for Falcao, the player van Gaal took off.

After the game, van Gaal spoke about how he found the 'solution' as if this was something to be satisfied about.

That worries me a great deal. He got away with it. That's the true story here. He stumbled on an answer which should have been obvious to him before the game even started.

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