Tuesday 23 January 2018

Paul Scholes: United's football is miserable under Louis van Gaal

The football is miserable at times - too few of current players are prepared to take risks

Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie are among those struggling to find form this season
Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie are among those struggling to find form this season
I don’t think Robbie Savage is a knobhead! We have known each other since we were kids and I enjoy being on the show with him. I am sure we said much worse to each other in those Manchester United youth teams.

Paul Scholes

Part of being a Manchester United player under Alex Ferguson, perhaps the most important part of being one of United's attacking players, was that when you were in possession you had to take risks in order to create goalscoring chances. It was not an option; it was an obligation.

In the periods of my career when I stopped passing the ball forward, or when I stopped looking for the risky pass that might open up a defence, the consequences were the same. The manager stopped picking me. I got back into the team when I went back to doing it the way he wanted.

United's history was built on attacking football, which does not always mean that the team kept clean sheets or did not concede chances. Why do you think United have had some of the best goalkeepers in the world over the years? They needed them because the team committed so many players forward.

It does not give me any pleasure to say that at the moment I am struggling to watch Louis van Gaal's team with any great enjoyment. They beat Burnley on Wednesday night but it was Burnley who had by far the best of the first half. At times, United's football is miserable. To beat opposing teams you have to attack, and to attack you have to take risks. Too few of the players in the current team are prepared to take those risks.

As a midfielder at United I had to pass the ball forward and, yes, it did not always work. It did not always mean putting a chance on a plate for the strikers. It was up to them to get on the ball and score goals. Was it easy? No, but we were playing for United. It was not supposed to be easy. Of the current team, Angel Di Maria has taken more risks than any other player and, unfortunately, for him it has not worked out. He has given the ball away a lot for very little return.

Read more: Scholes: I don't think Robbie Savage is a knobhead but I have called him worse down the years

Otherwise there seems to be an emphasis on possession. I would go further than that: there is an obsession with possession.

United fans don't care if the team only has 40 per cent possession as long as they are watching an attacking team. My experience was that the supporters understood that even our best teams, even the teams with Peter Schmeichel or Edwin van der Sar in goal, were going to concede goals. We were not reckless, or naive, but always the chief aim was to attack - and we backed ourselves to outscore the opposition.

This season, how many times have United been rescued by David de Gea? Without him they would be three, four places lower down the table.

I realise that the comparisons I am making are with a golden age in United's history and that nothing lasts for ever. I was fortunate to play with so many wonderful footballers and under the greatest manager of all time, but I do believe that a club's ethos, the principles of how it plays, should outlive even the biggest individuals in its history. United are about attacking football, and everything else has to takes its place behind that.

We come at last to the two strikers, Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao. I feel they look like strangers at times, while Wayne Rooney is moved around the team to accommodate them.

Wayne can play anywhere on the pitch. He is so willing, and he will give you at least a 7/10 performance most times. Against Burnley, he ended up as a defensive midfielder. At other times he has been pushed out to the right-hand side, where he will look for the strikers early or switch the play. But if Van Gaal does not think Rooney is a better option up front than the other two then there really is a problem.

He has a fantastic goalscoring record for United, behind only Bobby Charlton and Denis Law, yet against West Ham he did not have a single touch in the opposition's box. That cannot be good for the team.

Van Gaal has taken some criticism for his Tuesday press conference when he produced those statistical printouts to come back at Sam Allardyce over his joke that United were a long-ball team. There was part of me that was pleased to see Van Gaal show a bit of edge and take someone on. It is what we expected of him when he was appointed.

Even so, I know Big Sam quite well and he had his tongue firmly in cheek when he said what he did about United.

At the end of the day, all Van Gaal had to remind himself was that, for all Big Sam's qualities, we were not talking about the manager of Real Madrid or Liverpool or Bayern Munich. We were talking about West Ham. There was no need to rise to the bait. (© Independent News Service)

I've called Robbie Savage worse things down the years

I realise that my inadvertent remark on BT Sport that was picked up by the cameras has caused a fair bit of amusement.

I have to be clear about one thing, the "knobhead" comment was something of a reflex that came out because I must have been so relaxed on the Fletch and Sav sofa. In reality, I did not even realise I had said it until the presenter, Darren Fletcher, apologised on air a few minutes later.

So let me clarify: I don't think Robbie Savage is a knobhead! We have known each other since we were kids and I enjoy being on the show with him. I am sure we said much worse to each other in those Manchester United youth teams. Anyway, it was after the 9pm watershed, right?

Irish Independent

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