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Comparing David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho at Manchester United

Comparing David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho - which manager has been the best?

Feature 11 Apr 2017, 18:02 IST

Mourinho has had a decent start to his stint at Manchester United

As with any new manager that comes into a football club, they are immediately compared to their predecessors. Whether that is right or wrong, context does not matter in any instance. They are judged on raw numbers – so comparisons can be misleading. 

For instance, after 30 Premier League games, Louis van Gaal accumulated the most points, 59, while José Mourinho recorded 57 points and David Moyes 51.

If you look at those raw stats for what they are, they paint a very clear picture. LVG has been the best manager over 30 games in the Premier League post-Sir Alex Ferguson. 

However, when you watch the game of football, and compare the three managers’ philosophies and the way they instructed Manchester United, that picture is quickly washed away. 

The Dutch manager had a very dogmatic approach in how to play football. The answer was always possession – as long as you have the ball, the opposition cannot score. 

However, having 60% of the possession is pointless when you are playing the majority of your football near the halfway line. There was no impetus, drive or willingness to go forward and attack. The midfielders passed sideways and there was no link from the midfield to the attack. It was a slow build-up that had an anticlimactic finish. 

To his credit, the former Netherlands manager led Manchester United to lift the FA Cup for the first time since 2004. But by that point, it was far too late. The damage was done when LVG saw his team lose 1-2, 1-2 and 0-2 to Bournemouth, Norwich and Stoke. 

The former Ajax manager managed to get good results away from home and especially against the ‘top six’, but then the concentration was zapped out of them and they conceded and lost to teams they should not have. 

Moving on to Moyes, it was a strange announcement from the most successful English club ever. This was a manager whose only trophy was the Football League Second Division with Preston North End in 2000. 

The Scotsman might have done well with Everton and got them up the table in his 11 years at the club, but he had no experience of being in finals and managing high-profile players. These were, mainly, international players with egos. That is not to say Everton did not have any prima donnas, but there was clearly a different level between the Merseyside club and Man United.

Manchester United v Aston Villa - Premier League : News Photo
Moyes did not have a great time of it

When the Red Devils completed a record-breaking 81 crosses in the Premier League against Fulham, a dark shadow was cast over Moyes’s managerial reign. Given that match also finished 2-2, after United had overturned a 1-0 early lead from Fulham, was a sucker-punch. 

In defense of Moyes, the squad he inherited from Sir Alex Ferguson was not a squad that would typically win the Premier League. That was the genius of the arguably the greatest manager to grace the game – he turned ‘good’ players into ‘great’ players under him.

But that was quickly undone when Moyes stepped into his shoes – and dugout – as the players had stopped playing to that level and United slumped to a record-low seventh place. 

So in came Mourinho, the Portuguese boss full of bravado – exactly what Manchester United needed at the time. 

While his first 30 Premier League games have been a rollercoaster, they are currently sitting in the fifth position – four points away from a top four finish with a game-in-hand. 

Mourinho’s style of play is different to LVG and Moyes’s. His team might have trouble being clinical in front of goal, but the chances are being created in abundance. The same cannot be said under the two previous managers.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - The Emirates FA Cup Final : News Photo
Was van Gaal a success or a failure?

There are plenty of signs of optimism for the former Chelsea boss at Manchester United and another summer of recruiting players he wants will help the club go from strength to strength.

Mourinho has already won his first official trophy for Manchester United – the League Cup. While it is not the Champions League, you cannot undermine winning a trophy. It was a statement from Mourinho of what is to come. 

Away from domestic competition, they are also in the Europa League quarter-finals against Anderlecht, a team that they should really dismantle and get past with relative ease.

It would appear that Man United’s best chance of securing Champions League qualification is through the second-tier European competition. If Mourinho’s season ends with a top six finish, a Europa League and League Cup win, how can anyone complain? 

There are still a lot of games left to play, but they are on the right track and still have plenty to play for. 

It is better for Mourinho to be in this position in April than Arsene Wenger, who has very little to play for and is in a deep rut. 

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