Manchester United still lacking character


Just when I thought Man United are back, with 3 losses on the row, they are now looking over their shoulders for a 4th place finish as Liverpool are creeping in on them.

It has been a tough season for Van Gaal where he had the job of resurrecting a side who were on their way down after their Golden years under Sir Alex. They lost the swagger, their confidence and most importantly, they forgot what was the United way of approaching things.

Van Gaal entered the scene when the club was left in tatters by the ‘Chosen One’ David Moyes, under whom the Red Devils finished 7th which was completely unacceptable considering the stature of Manchester United.

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To me it was expected in a way, as I felt, Moyes being a great manager in his own right who established the foundations of Everton, he did not have the experience and nor the right mentality to control and manage United.

At Everton, his main aim each and every season was to get the team to a mid table position, whereas at United, even winning the Premier League can be seen as a failure especially if you don’t progress on the European front. There is such a stark difference in the ambitions that it wasn’t possible for a manager like Moyes to be successful, even if had a brilliant squad under his belt.

Enter Van Gaal, and with his impressive CV to back him up, there seemed to a breath of positivity in the United ranks where they felt he was the right man to bring back the glory days to the Theatre of Dreams. To make this dream come true he was also given a 120 million transfer budget with which he brought world class names to Old Trafford to reignite the team. He had to change the whole United setup so that they can move on towards a new and prosperous era.

This journey towards this new epoch hit a hard wall when they were defeated at home on the opening day by a brilliant Swansea. Not only there was anxiety in the atmosphere at United but the loss seemed to bring back the memories of last season. It was a ‘Here we go again’ moment where many geared themselves up for a tough season.

Van Gaal being one of the best managers in world football, seemed to be succumbing under the pressure at Man United. On one side, he had Manchester City, where the noisy neighbours had won two league titles in the last three years and more importantly, they had the bragging rights in Manchester where they have taken the upper hand in the derby in recent times.

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On the other side, towards London, there was a new and improved Chelsea under their beloved Jose Mourinho, who were ripping apart their opponents to shreds. Van Gaal not only had to be tactically astute, but he had to instill in his players a sense of purpose whenever they walked out to the pitch, because although tactics are important, there comes a moment when passion and purpose takes center stage, where the players succeed not because of tactics but because of their desire to win.

When you find a winning formula, you tend to stick to it. Van Gaal seemed to have found that winning formula where deployed a 4-1-4-1 formation with which he got vital wins against rivals such as Liverpool and most importantly their neighbors Manchester City.

Suddenly under Van Gaal, it seemed that the old Manchester United, the United with their swagger, with their confidence and they carried with them that terror which made them one of the fiercest teams in England.

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But, why is football called the beautiful game? It is because it is not only about what is written in the manager’s pad, the 11 names on the team sheet or the number of goals scored. It is about the love and passion for the game which the manager, team and fans share alike which makes it the most loved sport in the world.

So, sometimes a team may go through times when their winning tactics may not get them the results which they liked. Like Chelsea, due to their less rotation, they hit a snag where they had to grind out results and had to play with passion and hunger, which sometimes are more important than mere tactics.

This is where Manchester United failed this season. Despite the tactical changes, Van Gaal still isn’t successful in building a team which is filled with integrity and character. The team is not a team where they are bonded by a purpose, but they are mere individuals who are playing as a part of a system.

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Nobody is willing to put their bodies on the line for the team. Compare any United player with the Chelsea team, and then you can see a stark difference. Each and every player under Mourinho is dedicated to the Chelsea cause and is ready to give their blood and guts for the team. I don’t see that John Terry; I don’t see that Roy Keane; in the team of United, who can rally the team and instill in them a fighting spirit and that hunger to achieve.

This is the main reason, United are again faltering in these ending months where the whole team again looks directionless and without any integrity.

Manchester United will definitely be a contender for the League title next season, but they need something more than mere signings, they need character and probity and they need to realize who they are, and what is Manchester United. Only then we can see the United of old, in the seasons to come.

Next: Owners who must leave