Hammers boss Sam Allardyce takes swipe at 'long ball' United
Sam Allardyce last night branded Manchester United a "long ball" team after Louis van Gaal admitted that his players lost confidence in their passing during the first half and were forced to switch tactics.
In a blunt warning Van Gaal, the United manager, also said that he would "always" line up with players like Marouane Fellaini if the more technical performers, such as Adnan Januzaj and Angel Di Maria were not effective in winning the ball.
Fellaini was introduced as a 72nd minute substitute with West Ham leading 1-0 and, in the words of Mark Noble, United just "stuck the ball on his head" in the final period of the match.
The pressure ultimately resulted in Carl Jenkinson's headed clearance being shot past Adrian by Daley Blind. According to Sky Sports, United played 30 more long balls in the game than West Ham.
"In the end we couldn't cope with long ball United," Allardyce, the West Ham manager, said. "It's not how you normally see United play, but it got them a goal in the end. Van Persie, Di Maria, Rooney, Falcao didn't get a look in. It was actually our player that headed it so it wasn't any great play at all. It was a great shame we didn't hold out. I feel Manchester United have David de Gea to thank for keeping them in the game that long."
Asked if he was surprised to see United revert to their 'Plan B', Allardyce said: "What that they played those long balls? Yeah. You might just criticise Louis van Gaal for playing long ball as much as I'm sometimes criticised for being direct. In the end it's paid off for them. You can't knock it in the end. We restricted the quality of Man Utd. It was almost the perfect performance."
Van Gaal was clearly furious with United's first-half performance but did argue that his players had played better football at the start of the second half. He then accepted that United switched to a long-ball 'Plan B' once Fellaini came on and said that they may very well do so again.
"With Fellaini we have more power," the United manager said. "With Adnan and Di Maria, we have more creative players. That's why the second ball you cannot always win with these players but you have to win otherwise I have to line-up always players like Fellaini.
"I thought that we played a very bad first half. West Ham were much better.
"They won every second ball and when we had the ball we lost the ball so easily, without great pressure. It was very poor in the first half.
"When we had the ball we don't play the ball on the floor well and also when we lost the ball we have to win the first and second balls more than we did. They played long ball but all the second balls were for West Ham. I think that is why the players lost confidence playing the ball on the floor.
"With Fellaini you have to change your playing style. That is what we have done. When Fellaini came on we created a lot of chances."
Van Gaal was pleased, however, with the way his players responded to a blunt half-time team-talk. "We need the guts to play football along the floor," the Dutchman said.
"That we have done in the second half. Then my team showed fantastic spirit and also fantastic football. We created a lot of chances. We have had the open chances." Of the accusation that he had gone long ball, Van Gaal said: "That was after 25 minutes. Yes, I have done that already a lot of times with Fellaini, so that is not new. I think also West Ham should know that."
With Manchester City also drawing on Saturday, Van Gaal was especially disappointed to miss the chance to close the gap to second place.
"I cannot say that I am pleased," he said. "I'm more frustrated because we can play like the second half and we don't in the first half. City have lost points. It is a missed chance."
Van Gaal also predicted that Radamel Falcao would score in the "next match" after he missed another excellent chance, and the manager was adamant that Luke Shaw had not touched Stewart Downing for the second booking that resulted in a red card. "The player was jumping, but I think it was tactically not so smart of Shaw," he said.
Allardyce confirmed Andy Carroll could return from injury on Wednesday for the match against Southampton. (©Daily Telegraph, London)