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Louis Van Gaal has always been known for making immediate changes in matches rather than giving more time to his players before making a substitution. And the Dutchman has been true to the criticism and has so far made 14 substitutions in all competitions.
Let us see how his substitutes have so far performed:
Sir Alex Ferguson has been the master of substitutions during his time. Ferguson’s master stroke was bringing on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham, who went on to score in the 1999 Champions League finals. In recent times, bringing Javier Hernandez for Patrice Evra at half-time in 2011 against West Ham United, helped the Reds produce a great comeback.
Also, bringing Ryan Giggs at half-time against Blackpool helped United overcome a 2-0 goal deficit in 2009. In the negative front though, bringing Carlos Tevez against Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League finals did not help much.
But, Ferguson has been labeled an instinctive thinker, who makes the changes in those moments. On the other hand, Van Gaal has been deemed as a proactive person, who decides his substitution well in advance. Sometimes the player who is set to come as a half-time substitute can be seen warming up a while before the break.
Starting from his first official match, Van Gaal has shown that he is not afraid to make changes at break itself. In the opening day defeat against Swansea City, Van Gaal brought on Nani for Hernandez at the break. That move did not help the club much as United lost the game 2-1 anyway.
His first notable change was bringing on Maroune Fellaini for Ander Herrera at West Bromwich Albion last October. Fellaini immediately scored the equaliser and from then on enjoyed a good run under the Dutchman. Again bringing Fellaini in place of Juan Mata at Queens Park Rangers last January helped United win 2-0 in the second half and Fellaini was at the heart of many things in the match. In fact Mata did not start a premier league match for nearly two months after that.
One of his most effective and bold move was replacing the ineffectual Angel Di Maria for Adnan Januzaj against Sunderland last February. That move paid off as Januzaj was a constant thorn in the right flank and it was from his rebound shot, Rooney scored the second on the night.
Even in the last game, bringing Radamel Falcao on for Wayne Rooney worked to an extent. Falcao played a part in Crystal Palace defender Damien Delaney colliding into keeper Julian Speroni to gift Fellaini a free header for the winner. He also set up Herrera a late chance.
On the negative side, Van Gaal’s half-time changes in the defeat to Arsenal in the FA cup was not pretty. Luke Shaw was forced to be replaced by Phil Jones due to an injury at the break. But, Van Gaal did not stop there and brought Michael Carrick for Herrera instead of the ineffectual Daley Blind. The move backfired as United conceded again in the second period to lose 2-1 and crash out of the tournament.
In the recent humiliation at the Goodison Park, former Everton player Fellaini was replaced at the break for Falcao. Van Gaal did so to protect the midfielder from getting a second yellow, but the move backfired as United became light weight in midfield and Everton went on to trash United 3-0.
The Dutchman so far in his first season at United has made 14 half-time changes in 12 games. Among them, five were enforced changes due to injuries while the remaining nine were tactical. During the 12 games, United have won four times, but lost five times and drew the remaining three. Not so pretty reading for the Dutchman in this front. Perhaps, Van Gaal has something to work on!