Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis Van Gaal & Getting Lost Along the Way

What can be said about Manchester United these days that hasn’t already been said a thousand times?

“The football is boring!” Heard it.

“Fans are falling asleep!” I’ve seen the videos on Twitter.

“The manager is delusional!” I’ve said it myself a few times.

“If you were a top red you’d support your club!” This ‘top red’ nonsense needs some explaining anyhow.

You’ve heard them all too, no doubt, and more.

We’ve all seen the statistic pages about goals scored (or lack of), points obtained (or missed), matches in a row not scoring at home in the first half (what are we at now, 10?), and new records set (in a negative way) – we’ve seen them all. They hurt. They cut deep into a fan base who, save for the last 2 ½ seasons, has basically known only large amounts of success. The failures have come few and far between, but there were failures. We’ve been knocked out of the FA Cup unceremoniously more than a few times (Oh Danny boy); same with the League Cup (will we ever forget MK Dons). This is football.

Bad losses and streaks happened under Sir Alex Ferguson, but we’ll choose to remember it all with rose colored glasses. Truth be told, after Manchester United won the Premier League 8 times in its  first 11 seasons in the newly formed top flight (never missing out on the top prize longer than one season), they only won the trophy once in the next 5 seasons (going three straight seasons without winning it). There were calls for Ferguson to do what he had planned to do and had changed his mind, retire.

For United fans these were tough times. During this barren stretch, the only trophies to make their way into United’s famous trophy cabinet was the FA Cup in 2004 (the year before Rooney’s arrival) and the League Cup in 2006. I’d reckon to say Van Gaal would love to have these trophies now. A bang on-form Van Gaal display meant the League Cup is gone for another season. We are still, somehow, in the FA Cup – no words will be wasted here on the Sheffield United debacle. Our next opponent is the Rams of Derby County FC. They sit second in the Championship and love to score a goal or two at home – I wonder what that’s like. As predictable as Rudd van Nistelrooy scoring goals, Van Gaal will deploy two defensive midfielders with the hope of a replay at Old Trafford. Don’t let the sarcasm get lost on you now…but am I wrong? One thing is for sure – it will be dire. Apparently Van Gaal believes you and I are happy.

Next up for United is a trip to St. James Park. Historically a tough trip for United. These two famous clubs have faced each other 162 times with United winning 83 of those matches. Quite honestly, a win tomorrow for United seems almost impossible and there is little hope in the reserve tank to believe for something else. The players look devoid of confidence and joy, and the manager seems more firmly rooted that his system will be found true. His resume is impressive and Van Gaal has won the lot – something we all pointed to when he succeeded the clueless Moyes. His history of getting fired for failing is also impressive. Sadly it looks like we’ve gotten the delusional-needs-to-be-fired Louis Van Gaal, as opposed to the trophy winning mad man we expected.

A trip to Liverpool next Sunday looms on the near horizon. Van Gaal has not yet lost to the Red half of that famous city just down the M62 from Manchester. A loss for Van Gaal at Newcastle may not be the final straw of his United career, but a loss to Jurgen Klopp’s rebuilding project at Anfield would surely send the Dutchman to his hideaway in Portugal 17 months sooner than planned.

Rebuilding is tough, but money has been spent and good players, even a couple great ones, are currently playing at United with a youth team filled with promise. This dire, boring, drudge-filled, fearful, impassionate football doesn’t have to be a part of that process. Van Gaal, while trying to implement strict policies in his philosophy, somehow lost his way on the pitch. His inability to reverse the trend is alarming, and a spirited 35 minute display against Chelsea is no turn around. Louis Van Gaal needs wins, and uncharacteristically of a win, he needs them to be done in a manner that not only entertains the fans but rejuvenates the players he has lulled into a stupor.

Your guess is as good as mine what the next 6 days of Manchester United football will bring. There is little hope right now for anything but draws and losses and that should never be the expectation of a Manchester United fan, much less of the manager in charge of the whole show.

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