Is Louis van Gaal eroding Manchester United's identity?
Amidst recent comments made by former Barcelona and Bulgaria striker Hristo Stoichkov on Louis Van Gaal's tenure at Manchester United, we take a look at whether there is more than meets the eye to the Dutchman's rebuild of The Red Devils after David Moyes' demise at the helm.
Following the sacking of Moyes, Manchester United were left in a position that the modern football world saw as completely unfamiliar due to their worldwide fan base, prestigious history and general success over many years. Fans of the club knew that the loss of the great Sir Alex Ferguson would hit hard in the dressing room but many did not expect a downfall so destructive.
The fans knew that a winner was required. Someone with experience and reputation. Someone who was ruthless and someone who believed in the club, just like Sir Alex did. Rumours flew and names were thrown around until eventually, Louis Van Gaal stepped up to the plate and took the reigns following an impressive World Cup campaign with the Netherlands, leading them to a 3rd place finish.
Van Gaal? Really?
The future looked promising, but the question was could Van Gaal restore the glory that Manchester United were so accustomed to?
To some extent yes. A 4th place finish and Champions League football were realistic targets for a club in transition to achieve. However, was this really done in true Manchester United fashion? The answer is no. With the signings of Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao who were both left out throughout a large part of the season, it was clear that Van Gaal lacked efficiency in most cases.
The signings of Ander Herrera and Daley Blind were successes, however, it was Moyes' signings that Van Gaal drew most of his winnings from. Marouane Fellaini was a pivotal part of the 2014/15 season as he provided a new dimension to the Manchester United side, however, one that links to the comments made by Stoichkov. Were Manchester United a long ball side that year? Again the answer is no, they relied on a target man, a tactic widely unseen at Old Trafford whether it was Moyes or Ferguson in charge.
The identity of Manchester United was to play fluid, attacking football and keep the ball on the floor, working it into the area with care and precision. To dominate the game and play right to the final whistle. This changed with Van Gaal in charge with a lot of the chances being created from wide. The argument to this being that maybe Van Gaal had to assess the form of his players and assess how he could win games and if the style of fluid attacking football was dated, maybe the change was necessary.
Stoichkov also warned Barcelona winger Pedro Rodriguez not to join forces with the Dutchman at United. This is another talking point of how perhaps Van Gaal is doing it the way that would not best please some Manchester United fans.
If we look at Louis Van Gaal's dealings in the transfer market, some say they are a true statement of intent from a big club, however, I can provide a different alternative to this.
What happened to the youth?
Looking back at the treble winning team of '99, the likes of Paul Scholes, the Neville brothers, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs showed that Manchester United's youth was especially capable of producing talent worthy of such a prestigious achievement.
Fergie's belief in the academy continued to prove a worthwhile asset to his illustrious career as manager. Even his efficiency when having to dip into the transfer funds proved to be second to none at times, the most noticeable being 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, signed from Sporting Lisbon for £12.24m who went on to become a club legend and a major profit when sold for £80 million to Real Madrid.
This spoke volumes about how Manchester United operated as a club and how they refused to be drawn into spending ridiculous amounts of money during Fergie's reign like their title rivals Manchester City and Chelsea. However, Van Gaal has changed this and with the recent departure of British record signing Angel Di Maria who spent just one season at the Theatre of Dreams after a tough first season, it proved to leave the Dutchman red in the face much to the disapproval of many fans.
Despite the failings of last season, Van Gaal continues to delve into the vast funds layed out at his disposal with the additions of Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Matteo Darmian and Memphis Depay with more rumoured to come, but in light of Manchester United's striker crisis, shouldn't Van Gaal look at his exciting prospects that have come from youth? James Wilson could be much like a Harry Kane. After all, Kane has only enjoyed one good season in the Premier League and he is not prone to failure, so why not give James Wilson a chance should Rooney fall to injury?
The quote "You will never win anything with kids" made by Alan Hansen has already been famously disproven once by Manchester United, so should Van Gaal attempt to recreate the image that was built by Sir Alex? Or is football too modern for young talents at big clubs?