“The economy, stupid!”
So said James Carville back in 1992 when he was advising Democratic Party leader Bill Clinton on how best to attack the Republican party’s 12 year grip on power. He was right of course. We westerners are prepared to take a lot of shit from a lot of politicians, but take the dollar from our pockets and they will suffer. Economy 1-0 George Bush Snr.
While “Slick Willy” knew that nothing else mattered in an election year apart from how flush his future subjects were feeling, I’m here to tell you that when trying to assess whether an initially underwhelming run of results matters to the future success of a United manager, you should look at the man’s record and proclaim from the top of Daley Blind’s city centre penthouse apartment:
“It’s the CV that matters, dickheads!”
It started, I think, around Southampton’s win at Old Trafford. I’m not talking about disappointment at results or even at the turgid and fortunate nature of some of our wins. I’m talking about grumbling over van Gaal’s suitability for the job.
“It’s the Emperor’s new clothes, mate.”
“Right players, wrong formation.”
“Stop going on about philosophy FFS!”
Or the one that really gets my blood boiling:
“He’s got the same points as Moyes had at this stage last season.”
I will concede that, like most emotionally driven ramblings, there is some truth in the comments above. The van Gaal “philosophy” is a tough sell. After all, it requires patience, a change in mind-set and a departure from the “just go out and enjoy yourselves” bollocks that people say Sir Matt used to rely upon. (I don’t believe for one minute that he did.)
Am I here to tell you black is white? No. There are teething problems. I am here simply to tell you all to calm down, take a breath and consider the following:
1) December 1989. Pete Molyneux unfurls his “Ta Ra Fergie” banner.
To the younger devotees of our site it may seem incredible, but many people really did want to see the back of the then plain old Alex Ferguson in 1989. I was 16 and I’d grown up watching Liverpool win EVERYTHING, ALL OF THE TIME. For us to see no discernable upturn in results after three years of Fergie was galling.
My Dad is and was a red, but his boyhood local team was Aberdeen. We watched – from afar – this aggressive force of nature smash the dominance of the Old Firm for those glorious six or seven years at the turn of the 70s and on into the mid-80s.
Fergie was an innovator. He ripped the club apart and started again in his own image. He said this would take time, but to trust him and his record. Sound familiar? For Aberdeen, read AZ Alkmaar and look at who’s won the last 25 Eredivisies.
My point being, if you have someone so single-minded, who doesn’t care what you, the press or anyone else thinks and who has a formidable record of success, don’t they deserve more than six months?
2) In six months, LvG has bought some serious wheat and sold some serious chaff
Most reds would say that a fairly important pre-requisite for any United manager is to know a good player from a bad one. So here’s a thought for you van Gaal doubters:
Brought in – Falcao, di Maria, Herrera, Shaw, Blind, Rojo, Valdes
Punted into touch – Cleverley, Welbeck, Keane, Anderson, Lindegaard and Fletcher (bless him)
You see the pattern emerging, don’t you? Sell players not good enough to play for United and replace them with very good ones. Imagine what the squad will look like after another summer of the same…
3) He believes in – and plays – the kids
Pardon the pun but isn’t that The United Way? McNair, Wilson and Blackett have all been entrusted with the same belief that van Gaal showed in the likes of Xavi and Valdes at Barça and Muller at Bayern. I’m not comparing them to those greats, but I am saying that he plucked those kids out of the youth set-up at a time when his predecessors didn’t even know their names. This is not a man who believes money solves everything. This is a man who – if someone isn’t doing it – will take them out of his team, however much they cost or are paid. Just ask fans’ favourites Radamel Falcao and Ander Herrera.
I know I know it might be dull but in his first five months of competitive games, van Gaal has been forced into picking an unchanged side on all but one occasion. Don’t for one minute think that this is a “trainer/coach” who likes to make changes. Check his record. He likes to work with smaller squads than is fashionable these days and likes to keep a settled side. In 23 league games he has used 22 different combinations.
5) He is always right
Yes, I know he’s not. I can hear Ander Herrera fans (Ed – me included) as I type weeping over another game (Leicester at home) during which the likeable Spaniard had to watch forlornly from the sidelines. I nearly shed a few tears myself. I am a fan of Herrera too.
However, van Gaal is the manager of Man United and you’re not. Imagine a world where the man in the hot-seat was indecisive, doubted his own convictions or – worse still – listened to the press and the armchair pundits. That’s right: you don’t need to imagine it. Merely think back just nine months to when David Moyes “tried” so hard to be loved.
The late 1980s provided me with some of the most turgid, unsuccessful, frustrating and embarrassing days as a United fan. The team was in transition and Fergie was kicking out the under-achievers, upsetting people left, right and centre. Deep down though, you knew, you just knew, that he had a record that shouted “back me and I will give you what you want”.
And do you know? He did.
This article was written by@thehandoffodTweet to @TheUnitedWay78