Thursday 18 January 2018

Man United players angered by Louis van Gaal's treatment of Rafael and video analyst's role

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley

Mark Ogden

Louis van Gaal’s heavy-handed treatment of Brazilian defender Rafael da Silva and the prominence given to video analyst Max Reckers have added to the training ground concerns that have left senior Manchester United players exasperated by the manager’s methods.

United face Liverpool at Old Trafford on Saturday with Van Gaal facing accusations that his rigid approach has led to discontent within the dressing-room at the club.

But while the situation is understood to currently be one of early season tension and teething problems rather than squad mutiny, Van Gaal’s abrasive style of management has prompted senior figures within the squad, reportedly captain Wayne Rooney and vice-captain Michael Carrick, to urge the Dutchman to soften his approach and allow more freedom of expression on the pitch and at the club’s Carrington training ground.

Having previously insisted that his captain and vice-captain have ‘special privileges’ under his management, any concerns voiced by those figures would be regarded as within the players’ ‘privileges’ by Van Gaal.

The situations with Reckers and Rafael have exacerbated concerns among the players, however.

Reckers, the Dutch analyst appointed by Van Gaal to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of opponents and the performances of United’s players, has been given a central role by the manager in his backroom team.

 But with several of the United squad schooled under Alex Ferguson’s cavalier, attacking approach, and the Latin element of the team rooted in flair and expression, there is a growing sense among the players of an over-reliance on Reckers and his input.

Players have become frustrated by lengthy video sessions and tactical meetings and the increasing focus on formation and tactics rather than flair.

Frans Hoek, Van Gaal’s long-time goalkeeping coach, does not share the same strong working relationship with goalkeeper David de Gea that the Spaniard experienced with predecessors Eric Steel and Chris Woods, while Victor Valdes – exiled from the first-team by Van Gaal – is another who has found it difficult to work under Hoek and Van Gaal at Old Trafford.

While there is an acceptance that Van Gaal has a long-standing relationship with his coaching team, his hard-line approach to dealing with players, particularly those out of favour at the club, has angered several squad members.

And Van Gaal’s decision to continually overlook and then sell full-back Rafael to Lyon this summer was one which many players felt showed a lack of respect towards a popular and long-serving member of the squad.

Rafael did not participate on the club’s pre-season tour of the United States after being told he could leave by Van Gaal, although defender Jonny Evans, who was also told he could leave at the end of last season, did travel to the States in order to maintain his fitness.

There is also little affection towards Van Gaal from United’s Spanish contingent, but the manager is ready to offer De Gea the chance to reclaim his position in goal following the collapse of his move to Real Madrid last week.

But with Liverpool due at Old Trafford this weekend, any failure to produce a convincing performance against Brendan Rodgers’ team is likely to place even greater focus on Van Gaal’s methods.

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