Monday, 2 March 2015

OF PTS, LVG & UEFA CL

There's a nagging narrative going around through the media that because of the way Manchester United are playing and given the opposition in the run-in, it is still very much a crisis at United and therefore top 4 is beyond their reach.

Whereas everything about those opinions holds water, I feel that something about the narrative has been lost in transition when it comes to Manchester United. These are the brief facts: United invested 150m quid in the transfer window and signed a proven manager and are 1. expected to qualify for the Champions League 2. play the type of football that does justice to the calibre of footballers on their books. Never mind the FA Cup, the above two objectives are what the general public expected and still expect of Manchester United this season.

Now, 27 games in and the first objective is still intact because United have spent longer inside the top 4 this season than out of it. However, because United are unconvincing in games in terms of performances, the watching world believes that the first objective is in danger because the second one has not been met. It's not entirely an unreasonable conclusion because most times performances determine results but it is not a definite conclusion.

That however is not the argument here. Louis van Gaal was never going to do things the Sir Alex way or the Manchester United way if you like. He was always going to be his own man. That meant most of the things we've come to love or admire about United were going to be subject to his ways....to use a word we all hate, subject to the philosophy he's embedding in the club.

Here's the thing: United's no holds barred approach during the Sir Alex years was a reflection of the traits of the man himself. That Scottish-cum-English bravery that made him the ultimate risk taker, the gambler. There's nothing bad about gambling if you are good at it, and boy wasn't the Old Scott good! Instinct rather than ration was the order of the day in his days. It's why many of the decisions he made seemed irrational at times, and outrig

htly bang out of order at other times. From signing a player like Eric Cantona or Eric Djemba Djemba to letting a player go like Ruud van Nistelrooy or David Beckham, it usually was down to instinct----HIS instinct. Whether borne out of his ego or otherwise is another debate for another bank holiday but in Sir Alex's world, 1+1 can be equal to 3. I mean how else would one explain an FA Cup quarterfinal against Arsenal in which he puts out no less than 7 defenders as part of his starting XI and still nets a 2-0 victory!


No marks then for guessing that the decision to appoint David Moyes as successor was down to one man's instinct. Be that as it may, you can totally understand why the decision was made. Replacing a man that thrived on personal instinct could only be mitigated by a man that prides himself in sort of similar levels of bravery and instinct. David Moyes was as close to Sir Alex as they could muster. The big difference though is that Moyes is NOT a gambler....in fact he wouldn't even be allowed in a Casino.  

The crux of it all is that LVG is neither a gambler nor a man that operates on instinct. Ladies and Gents, here's a man that like the Scientist, believes in ration. In his world, everything can be defined and explained down to the minute detail. In his world, 1+1= and is always 2. You cannot possibly expect to keep with the norm when you hire this type of manager. What we've all come to love about United has to be tempered by this one truth. He's dug up the pitches at Carrington and yet we expect the same ethos. Not going to happen. In curing the Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), the Dutchman is firstly attempting to rid us of our pragmatic love of the past as we get introduced to his kind of pragmatism. 

Admittedly, LVG has in recent years learned to be pragmatic enough to achieve results when he feels that the tools at his disposal are not up to the task but that is not to suggest that he has trashed his traits of building up major club institutions to own a brand of football that will outlast him at the club.

The reality is even in the rebuilding, there are bottom lines. The above two objectives alluded to earlier are the essential bottom lines set for the club but to the fans and indeed to the wonders, only the first objective really matters. Regardless of how they do it, if United are in the top 4 come May 24th, it will have been a successful campaign.

The elephant concern however still remains in the room: Will the current performances cost the club in the more difficult games to come? The answer is who knows? We'll just have to wait it out because the evidence can be misleading. Against Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal this season, United have a 56% win record. It's nothing next to brilliant but it is also far from the shambles people are predicting it to be like. In fact, United's problems this season have been largely caused by the alsorans of the league. It is conceivable for instance that United will have a tougher time at St James' Park on Wednesday than at home against Arsenal in the Cup on Monday week.

At the moment, the club's home form is keeping them in the green. That much is clear. What has been conveniently swept under the carpet is that Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City are worse off points wise this season than they were last season and yet United are both positionally and points-wise better off than last season. It will not matter to any of those sides if they make the top 4 and neither should it matter if United crawl into the top 4 by the skin of their teeth!

Finally special mention to Ashley Young for, you know.....doing stuff.     

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