Manchester United are currently occupying the second position in the league, but wait a minute it is not in the league standing, instead it is in the long-ball category. Only Burnley have played more long balls this season than the Red Devils.
After the match against West Ham United, Sam Allardyce accused United for playing too many long-balls and branded Van Gaal’s side as ‘Long-Ball-United’. It provoked furious response from the Dutch manager to an extent that he came to the pre-match press conference on Tuesday with a chart in his hand to prove why United is not a long-ball team.
The Dutch manager gave a detailed explanation to one sorry journalist to make the reporter feel like being present in a detention class. Let us look at the few points expressed by Van Gaal to see whether he has the justice on his side:
Important notes from Van Gaal’s press conference
Van Gaal said United had over 60 percent possession against West Ham and asked a valid question, ‘Can a team play long-balls frequently and still have so much possession?”
West Ham United players have found their strikers with long balls 71 percent of time compared to United’s 49 percent on the night.
Only after Fellaini was brought on 70 minutes, United took the direct route by playing long balls to the front-men.
Until then, Van Gaal said United played long balls just to switch from one flank to another and not to pick the strikers with hopeful crosses into the box.
The late direct approach however rewarded with an equaliser through Daley Blind, so Van Gaal says the Plan-B has indeed worked.
The above points may suggest that the manager has a point that United have played less long balls than West Ham. But seeing one of the best attacking sides in England coming up with such an amount of long balls in a match would have left the club’s faithful disappointed.
Also the worrying thing for United fans was that the team hardly created chances while playing in the ground till the 70 minute mark. United looked a lot threatening only when Fellaini was put up-front as a focal point and long-balls was directed towards him.
So the question is how Van Gaal has changed one of the best counter attacking team in the league into playing hopeless long-balls to earn a point? Only he can answer it. Also the desperation at which he came to the press room with a detailed set of papers in his hand to prove Sam Allardyce’s acquisition was false, showed the increase pressure he is currently experiencing.
Despite possessing successful experience with some of the biggest clubs in Europe, Van Gaal knows that he is in a situation where he has got to deliver soon to avoid facing the similar fate experienced by David Moyes last year.
Also considering the fact that United board have provided him with 150 million in the summer, it is imperative for the Dutchman to start delivering for them. So it is time for Van Gaal to stop educating the journalists in the press room and start teaching his own players about his so-call mysterious philosophy to get Reds back into Europe.