Cleat Geeks

Louis van Gaal, Transfers and his ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ at Manchester United

VanGaalOn Saturday evening the 12th of September 2015 the most expensive teenage footballer in world history if all the add ons are to be believed, Anthony Martial, crossed the white line at Old Trafford and began his career at Manchester United. So far, on the evidence of his all round play and stunning goal that evening against Liverpool, Martial’s career looks to be full of promise.

However before Martial’s arrival at Manchester United there have been lots of opinions, both on social media and in print, by certain crystal ball gazers, aka ex-football pundits, about the merits or otherwise of United’s move for the Frenchman.

One well known British newspaper lead with the banner headline,”What A Waste Of Money”, while numerous voices in the football world claimed that Martial “would struggle in the English premier league”.

Whist most keen eyed observers recognise Martial has a long way to go in his football career he has already quietened some of the doubting voices. Jamie Redknapp ex-Liverpool and now of Sky Sports fame proclaimed recently that Martial “was the best 19 year old he had seen since Lionel Messi”.

While Martial was the final piece of Van Gaal’s transfer dealings in the summer of 2015 United’s overall transfer policy had seemed a little strange. After signing Memphis Depay from PSV at the very start of the transfer window, and Martial on the very last day, to most onlookers it seemed like a ‘scattergun’ approach.

memphisDepayIn between the signings of Depay and Martial and prior to the summer tour of the United States of America, Van Gaal had added to his travelling squad with Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Matteo Darmian, giving much needed strength to his midfield and defence. After this nothing really happened apart from Van Gaal teasing journalists with his hint of signing a secret striker, a Galactico no less, a Bale or Ronaldo perhaps?

Along with transfer’s into Old Trafford there have also been transfers out, some of which has been more difficult for Manchester United fans to understand. Van Gaal allowing a number of players to leave the club or go out on loan, the prime examples being Van Persie to Fenerbahce, Hernandez to Bayer Leverkusen and Januzaj on loan to Borussia Dortmund.

It left the United manager with very few options, especially in the striking department as the season kicked off on August 8th. Rooney and Martial it could be argued are the only two out and out goal getters who are regulars in the first eleven. Depay, Mata and perhaps Wilson, if he does not go out on loan, are also expected to add to the goal total over the premiership season.

As the season got underway it was Van Gaal’s philosophy which came under the spotlight. The infamous ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ apparently turns base metal into gold, using his own version of the artifact Van Gaal hopes to turn an as yet unsuccessful United under his management into one capable of winning the Premiership title.

Manchester-United-vs-LiverpoolVan Gaal’s insistence on his ‘philosophy of football’ has become much clearer following the first few games of the  premier league season. His ‘philosophy’ is based mainly on possession football, passing the ball from side to side, backwards and occasionally forwards. While the United fans mantra of ‘attack, attack, attack’ still resounds home and away,Van Gaal is playing a very different game, one which previous United managers in the main avoided.

This ‘philosophy’ reached its zenith for Van Gaal in the away match at Southampton on 20th September when after 44 passes by the team, Mata steered the ball into the Southampton net. It was obvious in the after match interview how pleased Van Gaal was with that particular goal, and how he wants his United team to play.

With any philosophy however there are good days and bad days, the 3-0 defeat at Arsenal showed that no matter which process you prefer, at the end of the day, players need to be ready, they need to fight.

Van Gaal is now roughly half way through his three year contract at United and while that might be a delight for some who have not taken to his style of play, others will seek more continuity and hope he will be around a little longer. They might also hope that his transfer activity is more thought out next time and his ‘philosophy’ honed to a more attacking, attractive style of football.


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