Van Gaal’s United Remain in Transition


Following another largely uninspiring season for Manchester United, manager Louis van Gaal’s declared that the expectations of the club’s supporters remain too high.

In the aftermath of Van Gaal’s team closing out their Premier League season with a 3-1 win over Bournemouth, the Dutchman expressed his belief that the Old Trafford faithful should better appreciate their current team’s capabilities.

“We are a team in transition and I have said that since I started. Maybe I need to bring over the message much clearer than I have done. The fans are expecting a lot but I think these expectations are much too high.”

Although Van Gaal did not elaborate on his perception of those expectations, it is rational to establish one of them as being Champions League Qualification. Despite always in contention to meet that expectation, the Red Devils failed to do so, with their fiercest rivals Manchester City beating them to a top four place courtesy of having a superior goal difference.

Subsequently given that in his debut season Van Gaal – whose managerial appointment came three months after the sacking of David Moyes – led United back into Europe’s elite club competition, failing to achieve that for a second successive year, represents a stagnation of United’s on-field progress under Van Gaal, which the Dutchman concedes.

“Our aim in the first year – and also the second and the third – is the Champions League. It is the highest level and a club like Manchester United has to play at that level.”

As such there seems to be a shared recognition between Van Gaal and United supporters that the team are under-performing. It is however on the extent to which that is the case, that the two parties disagree.

Van Gaal emphasizes his team is in a transitional period, whilst a large section of the club’s supporters have expressed frustration that after two years in charge, the former Ajax & Barcelona manager ought to have developed a side better equipped to challenge for the Premier League title and compete on the continent.

Ultimately the team put together by Van Gaal is several steps behind the hoped for target, having finished 14 points adrift of champions Leicester, whilst playing a largely uninspiring brand of football. That claim is substantiated by statistics as during the 2015-16 season United scored the fewest home goals – 32 – completed the most backward passes – 3107 – and the third highest number of sideways passes – 9718.

Subsequently highly justified is the discontent sweeping through United’s support at the team regressing both in terms of league standing and having the ability to play entertaining football. After scoring just 49 goals in the entire Premier League season at an average of 1.49 per game, Van Gaal’s side lacks the cutting edge and invention required to reestablish the club as a major force both domestically and on the European stage.

By downplaying the expectations surrounding his current squad, the Dutchman is being realistic about the difficulties facing United, but the supporters believe that they should be doing much better than they are. The sense of frustration among fans and their negative sentiment are understandable, particularly since over £250m had been spent on transfer signings during Van Gaal’s tenure.

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