After seeing them exit the Champions League on Tuesday night, I think it’s fair to say that Manchester United are not the Manchester United of old anymore.
They are a totally different team. The manager, although he didn’t buy a whole lot of defenders in the summer, is trying to install a defensive mentality on the team. And they’ve lost their identity in the process.
They might still only be three points off the top of the Premier League table, but if you ask any Manchester United fan now whether they like what they are seeing on the pitch then I’d expect the vast majority to say no.
Going into Europe and even as late as Tuesday, you’d have fully expected them to progress through their group, but on the night they underperformed and conceded a quick equaliser.
With the philosophy that Louis van Gaal has you’d have then expected them to tighten up and not concede again, but that wasn’t the case and now they have a challenge in the Europa League on their hands.
As far as the league is concerned now, the distraction of Thursday night football likely to be playing heavily on his mind.
The Dutchman now has to figure out a way to put out a strong enough team in midweek to challenge to win the Europa League while at the same time ensuring he has enough quality to push for the title.
No team has managed to win the Premier League when playing in the Europa League, so it will be interesting to see if the Red Devils can be the first to do it.
From the outside looking in, whether you agree with his philosophy or not, you’d have to say that United probably look a better team under Van Gaal than they did in the Moyes era.
He won’t change his philosophy, that won’t happen, he’s too long in the tooth to be changing the way he wants football to be played.
Van Gaal will just point to the stats, and suggest his critics look to the table.
They are three points from Leicester at the summit of the league and he will be quite happy.
From the fans’ point of view, the Manchester United way has always been pleasing on the eye and the question that will be posed now is whether they will accept Van Gaal’s dogged approach if they go on and win the title.
I think that they would accept that scenario, but at the moment they are stumbling, not getting results week-in-week-out, and if the man in charge wants to keep the fans off his back, he needs his players to deliver consistently under his system.
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