Louis van Gaal: How the Manchester United manager fared on his Old Trafford debut
Man United fans got a first look at the new manager's tactical approach and the players who are flourishing in the new system. Here is how the new gaffer got on.
1 Body language: a stare to rival Ferguson’s
It has not taken long for him to be given the nickname King Louis, though whether it is a tribute to the Bourbon kings of France or the Jungle Book remains uncertain. He was looking forward to walking out of the tunnel.
“I have heard from my cook that goose bumps should exist for me,” he said. Yet he was far from regal, if anything looking slightly bashful. During the game he exuded calmness but possesses a Medusa stare to rival lex Ferguson’s.
2 Selection: Young prospers in the Ajax way
Because of injury and the lack of pre-season training by players who were not turfed out of the World Cup at the first opportunity, he picked his strongest starting XI and stuck with his three-man defence.
Ashley Young looks a player reborn as a flying wing-back and once again Van Gaal stayed true to his Ajax roots and entrusted two young players, Tyler Blackett and Reece James, with the tricky job of shutting down the slippery Sofiane Feghouli on the right.
3 Tactical approach: sticking to his guns despite alarms
Has played the three-man defence throughout pre-season and did so again here with Juan Mata sitting in front of the midfield four and Young and James bombing on.
Chris Smalling played as the free man at the back at first, then Phil Jones, and both looked accomplished, though the number of times they had to sweep up in the second half should be a cause for alarm. He went for two up front but Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernández are not compatible.
4 Result: spot on, but they still look two players short
Van Gaal said victory was important, but preparation was more significant. The way a much-altered side found a winner after a 25-minute spell of Valencia dominance showed their pluck and the late, late goal will be seen as a sign that the ‘real United’ are back.
Ander Herrera is a ferocious so-and-so with exquisite touch but they still look a couple of players short, even if improvement in the squad’s confidence and speed of play continues at this rapid pace.