Friday 6 December 2019

Van Gaal: I may have tinkered too much with United

Manchester Utd 1 Crystal Palace 0

Luke Shaw battles it out with James McArthur at Old Trafford. Photo credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Luke Shaw battles it out with James McArthur at Old Trafford. Photo credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Juan Mata scores the only goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. Photo credit: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
David De Gea saves an attempt on goal from Palace's Frazier Cambell. Photo credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Daley Blind of Manchester United competes for the ball with Yannick Bolasie of Crystal Palace. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Manchester United Manager Louis van Gaal. Photo credit: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Miguel Delaney

LOUIS VAN GAAL has admitted he may have changed Manchester United's formation "too much" in his first 11 Premier League games at the club, but insisted he retains a "clear vision" for the team.

For Saturday's home win over Crystal Palace, the Dutch coach continued with the same formation from the previous week's defeat to Manchester City - his third formation of the season - but with more tinkering as Daley Blind had to be moved to centre-back.

That finally gave Van Gaal his fourth win as United manager and just his third clean sheet, but came at the cost of attacking verve.


There was a dismal pedestrian style to the side's play reminiscent of the worst of David Moyes' time. It was also the opposite of the recent games Van Gaal oversaw against West Ham and Everton, when freewheeling attacking was offset by porous defending.

The Dutchman said finding a balance between the two is key, but that so many changes may not have helped.

"It's too much (change to formation)I think, I agree," said Van Gaal.

"But I'm looking for the balance and when you see the last four matches, we have had more balance because we haven't conceded many goals. Nevertheless, we don't score so much. With the other system, we scored a lot of goals."

So many changes have raised questions over whether Van Gaal does actually have a plan.

He was asked whether the three years he said he needs could be rockier than imagined, or whether he does have that clear vision.

"When I answer that I have a clear vision, then you have to know I'm (considered) arrogant.

"But when you have seen what I have done in my career, you have to know that I have a vision and that I'm very confident in it. I don't think this is arrogant.

"It is self-confidence, although not only confidence in myself, but in my players, in the club, in the structure and organisation."

Van Gaal's faith in Juan Mata has been doubted and although the playmaker started on the bench, he came off it to drive in a 67th-minute winner. That goal was set up by an Angel Di Maria pass, but Van Gaal then took the Argentinian off precisely because of his lack of passing.

"He has played today in a very small space and he is a dribbler, but sometimes you cannot dribble. You have to make it a pass game and Di Maria is not a player who wants to give a pass every time he gets the ball. But in this case, we needed that and not dribbles. Therefore he lost the ball a lot of times and that was not good for the balance of the team.

"Of course, we need to raise our level. It's a matter of time, but it's also a matter of getting over a lot of injuries."

Palace manager Neil Warnock was fairly content despite the defeat, as he thinks it could be a relegation battle that involves as many as 11 teams. He pointed to Burnley's 1-0 win over Hull City as a positive.

"I'm quite pleased if I'm honest, because I think Hull and other teams are in it," Warnock said. "We'll all be scrapping. You've just got to take your chances, get your points when you can, really, and get on with the next one.

"I think there are a lot of teams, yeah, ninth down. You can't tell me any other manager is thinking anything other than 40 points, or 38, but that's the name of the game." (© Independent News Service)

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