Saturday 24 February 2018

Louis van Gaal's Manchester United deliver frustration, annoyance and disappointment again

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney looks dejected against Crystal Palace today
Action Images via Reuters / Tony O'Brien
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney looks dejected against Crystal Palace today Action Images via Reuters / Tony O'Brien Livepic
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

If Manchester United’s players were on a mission to banish the notion that they are one of the most boring teams in the Premier League as they took on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, they failed horribly in a 0-0 draw that could so easily have ended in defeat.

Paul Scholes’ accusations that United manager Louis van Gaal has become a conductor of negativity at Old Trafford sparked a big reaction from the United manager and the club’s supporters, with the majority of fans appearing to support the opinions of their iconic midfielder.

While United’s problems are hardly comparable with the Jose Mourinho-inspired crisis at Chelsea, disquiet is rising at a rapid rate among the club’s supporters who are struggling to love Van Gaal’s toothless tactics.

A 0-0 draw against a Palace side that went down 5-1 to Manchester City in their previous match is hardly a cue to blast Robbie Williams’ Let Me Entertain You out of the Old Trafford PA system any time soon and a glance at social media channels after the final whistle confirmed that negative jibes are once again being thrust in the direction of Van Gaal.

Like so many United games since Van Gaal took over as the club’s manager in the summer of 2014, frustration, annoyance and ultimately disappointment were the over-riding emotions as they again failed to deliver on their promise.

This, it seems, is the Van Gaal philosophy at work, with the impression that he is orchestrating some kind of master plan that will crank into top gear sooner rather than later starting to look less believable by the week.

Van Gaal may take some solace from the statistic that his team dominated possession in south London, but the most damning statistic on this latest United display game in the shots on target column, which confirmed that Wayne Rooney’s limp first half free-kick was the best the could muster in 95 minutes of action.

Palace could have piled the misery on for Van Gaal as Yannick Bolasie, Yohan Cabaye and Scott Dann all missed glorious chance to give Alan Pardew’s men a famous victory, with the United attacking fire doused long before the final whistle.

Why is Rooney continuing to be allowed to continue in his role as the lead striker? What is the logic behind  Anthony Martial being confined to a role on the wing when he looks a far more potent option up front?

They are questions United fans continue to ask, but Van Gaal bullishly fends off his detractors with the suggestion that he knows much more about the game than they ever will. This hugely experienced tactician has a valid point in that regard, yet it has also become hugely apparent that this is a coach who will not alter his mindset with any haste.

The Rooney issue is now especially pressing for Van Gaal and even though it is evident that he is desperate to give his leader all the time he needs to rediscover some form, this latest display was another that added to the unfortunate suspicion that Rooney is a spent force at the highest level.

Age is now always a guide to a player’s sell-by date and with 30-year-old Rooney not showing any kind of form throughout 2015, even Van Gaal will need to appreciate that his time is up sooner rather than later.

It may be that Rooney can contribute to the United cause from the bench, with his introduction into games when the opposition is fading physically an ploy that could work well for Van Gaal in the next couple of years.

As it stands, Van Gaal seems intent on picking Rooney at all costs, yet his poor delivery from set-pieces and his static movement was once more a glaring hole in the United make-up at Palace.

Van Gaal's move to switch Martial to the central position in the final 15 minutes of the game and move Rooney out wide suggested he is being tempted to change his ways and he needs to.

Playing Martial in his most effective role as a centre forward, getting Memphis Depay back into form and injecting some youthful panache into this United side is moving on without Rooney are tasks Van Gaal needs to consider ahead of games against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday and West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League next weekend.

The Old Trafford natives are restless and bored with what United are serving up and Van Gaal would be wise to open his eyes to some of the outstanding issues that are holding back his team.

Paul Scholes had a point you know.

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