Football.. Bloody Hell
This often exaggerated phrase was proved right yet again this past Saturday when Manchester United hosted Swansea at Old Trafford. In fact, this phrase applies to Manchester United more than it applies to football. They can falter anytime they prefer to and can run the opposition defenses ragged on their day. The former stood true when an upbeat full house at the Theatre of Dreams was left to mourn a shattering defeat under Louis van Gaal or simply King Louis, in his very first official game at the helm .
After emerging unvanquished from a tough preseason, it seemed Manchester United were back where they belong- at the very pinnacle. But depressing memories of a torrid 2013-14 season came back to haunt the fans after the referee blew the full time whistle on Saturday. Gylfi Siggurdson’s heroics meant that United succumbed to another opening day defeat after losing to Everton in the opening encounter of the 2012-13 campaign. That season, although passed away rather merrily for the Old Trafford faithfuls but things look the other way around this time.
Despite of signing two players this summer and another on the way, the sense of optimism could’ve been massive if not for an opening day defeat. The avid sense of adventure, which other big clubs have in the their ranks was clearly deficient. Cesc Fabregas’ intent-full passing, David Silva’s movement and Christian Eriksen’s completeness were on show during their respective opening day wins. No such thing was visible in the United ranks when they hosted Swansea and that cutting edge instincts were lacking.
Ander Herrera, the new comer’s performance was OK but what surprised most was Fellaini coming on for him. Fletcher had a rather below par game and looked out of sorts somewhat. There was no question in throwing Fellaini on for Herrera when United needed a goal. Agreed, Fellaini is United’s most pro-active midfielder in the final third but it just goes to show how much Louis van Gaal has got to know his side. Herrera could’ve held up play far better than Fletcher but it was he who was taken off.
Moreover, this 3-4-1-2 formation is an uncanny formation which utilizes the abilities of the motoring wing backs to stretch the play and be defensively resolute. The English Premier League fans are more accustomed to seeing 4-4-2’s or 4-5-1’s or counter attacking 4-3-3’s under Mourinho. This so called Dutch system will take time to make a mark on the English type of play.
The way football is played in England is completely different to how it’s played in Holland. More stress is laid on the physical part of the game and when you’ve two wing backs marauding up and down the flanks, it’s tough for them to do so in every single game. In the World Cup, this style progressed a great deal as evident from Spain’s thrashing on the hands of LVG’s Netherlands.
Coming back to individual players, Luke Shaw has never played in such a prominent role and this a major reason as to why he’s struggling with his fitness off late. Ashley Young, Valencia, Adnan Januzaj will take time to settle into this all new position and time is a critical aspect of the modern game. The time they bide could compliment others in leapfrogging United in the table and the story of the previous season will begin to unfold.
Louis van Gaal has previously managed clubs in Germany, Netherlands and Spain. They are places where leagues are not considered to be as competitive as the Premier League, which is a League where any team can force you to play out of their skins. Swansea epitomized this perfectly and their performances reflected that ‘smaller’ teams can never be taken for granted here. Louis van Gaal must have learned a vital lesson from this loss and would look to improve upon several pestering issues that lurk around in his squad.
The spirit, needless to say, was lacking. This rock bottom confidence is a tiny vestige or a mere legacy of what David Moyes’ disastrous campaign left behind. United players would take some time to seeing Louis van Gaal up there rather than seeing a subsided and silent figure of David Moyes. The confidence has still not reached a level with the help of which United can challenge for the title and the killer instincts won’t come around until this persists.
Marcos Rojo, United’s new signing is a good move but not as able as someone like Mats Hummels at Center Back. He was deployed as a left back during the whole of the World Cup and was even inducted into the World Cup’s Best XI. It’s a reminder of the fact that he prefers to play down the left and his credentials as a central defender are not yet approved of.
Of course, he can act as a decent cover there and at wing back but a signing in the form of an established center half was needed. More than that, they need dynamism which can help them forget the ruins of the previous season. Juan Cuadrado and Angel di Maria are being counted as ‘targets’ and with less than ten days to go for the window to slam shut, Woodward has to hurry. Panic buys won’t aid them in their cause but they stand to lay their hands on the title, only if either of these two are snapped up. The possibilities look bleak.
….A Manchester United fan