I’m writing in the aftermath of our first win in eleven games played at Old Trafford, and it’s such a good feeling. It’s been a while since the Arsenal made me feel so good; we have had some great results and we played some great games but this one carries something extra that is difficult to explain.
It’s no longer Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United but some good habits haven’t gone when the manager retired, such as diving to win a penalty or surrounding the referee to push favorable decisions; something changed, tho, and it is the fact that now it looks easier for referees to make the correct calls at Old Trafford – like Mr. Oliver did when he booked Di Maria and Januzaj for simulation.
He didn’t look too fazed by Rooney’s shouts or the crowd’s protests; he did his job and made the good call.
Manchester United didn’t have any other option but trying to win a penalty to rescue the game, which felt like capitulation to me.
We were told we were going to face one of the true football management gurus, a master tactician and a man labeled a genius for having swapped goalkeepers before a penalty shoot-out at the World Cup; that superb football manager didn’t have a better option than asking his team to throw long balls to his tallest man and hope he’ll produce something decent.
Despite having players like Rooney, Di Maria, Januzaj, Falcao, Mata and Young available, the only strategy set up by van Gaal is surprisingly close to what Tony Pulis used to do at Stoke City – with the only difference that at least Pulis was fielding a proper striker, not a makeshift centre forward like the Dutch maestro has been doing for a few weeks now.
Apparently, it’s all about immediate results at Manchester United at the moment, otherwise I couldn’t understand why van Gaal isn’t working on building a system and instilling a philosophy within his players.
What he’s doing is just trying to win the next game, no matter how, to show he’s the right man for the job; he doesn’t seem to care if his players look lost on the pitch, if there’s no connection between teammates and if some of his finest recruits are in blatant need of guidance, as long as he gets a good result.
Arsène Wenger has been labeled naïve, outdated and clueless for insisting on some players or pushing for his team to stick to “their” football but Monday night showed the huge difference between a team and a bunch of players.
The Arsenal went out with a game plan, knowing what to do and fighting for each others; Manchester United went on the pitch and hoped to wrestle the ball to the back of the net; once the strategy failed and they realized they didn’t have any real plan, some players lost their coolness and appealed to the worst means to get something from the game.
I’m not saying Arsène Wenger always called it right but the game at Old Trafford proved him right.
Strategies might be successful or failures but a player who’s been transmitted an ism rarely lost his mind; Manchester United proved it more than the Arsenal on Monday.
It’s quite ironic that Danny Welbeck, who’s been kicked out of his boyhood Club after being told “he could only be a reserve in this Manchester United team”, played the role of the executioner, making the best of his only chance of the night. Louis van Gaal didn’t trust his finishing and didn’t want to waste time on a 24-years old striker, what he got in return was being eliminated from the only competition he could win and playing a defensive midfielder as target man up front.
Winning headers and keep hold of the ball are two things Danny Welbeck can do – although there’s still room for improvements on both aspects of his games – but instead the ingenious tactician invested money on a short striker who can’t play with his back towards goal and is no more than a bench warmer.
Monday night’s win tasted like justice and nothing beats justice in football, perhaps that’s the reason why it felt so sweet.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.