Sport Soccer

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Van Gaal hits back at Allardyce

Louis van Gaal, pictured, has taken exception to Sam Allardyce's accusations
Louis van Gaal, pictured, has taken exception to Sam Allardyce's accusations

Louis van Gaal attempted to shoot down Sam Allardyce's "long-ball United" jibes by producing a dossier of evidence against the West Ham manager at his press conference on Tuesday.

Allardyce came up with the moniker for Van Gaal's team on Sunday after the Manchester United boss scraped a 1-1 draw at Upton Park following Daley Blind's 92nd-minute equaliser.

The Dutchman introduced Marouane Fellaini as a substitute in the second half and several long passes were subsequently lofted to the 6ft 4in midfielder.

"We couldn't cope with long-ball United," Allardyce said.

"It was (a case of) thump it forward and see what they could get."

Van Gaal said Allardyce's ''interpretation'' of his team was incorrect and to prove his point, the Dutchman took the bizarre step of producing a pamphlet filled with statistics at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.

The statistics quoted in the A4 pamphlet, which were put together by Prozone, claim West Ham sent a higher percentage of their long passes forward than United during the match.

West Ham attempted 200 passes, according to the figures, and United 343.

The pamphlet said 71.1 per cent of West Ham's ''long passes'' - of over 25 metres - went forward whereas United's percentage was just 49.9 per cent.

Diagrams in the pamphlet claim to show United's passes went sideways or diagonally, rather than forward.

''Because I expected this question, I have made an interpretation of the data for this game and then I have to say that it is not a good interpretation from Big Sam,'' Van Gaal said before lifting up the dossier from his table.

''When you have 60 per cent ball possession do you think that you can do that with long balls?

''Yeah, long balls, in the width, to switch the play. You have to look at the data and then you will see that we did play long balls, but long balls wide, rather than to the striker.

''A ball to the forward striker is mainly caused long-ball play.

''It is not so difficult also to read that.

''I am sorry, but we are playing ball possession play and after 70 minutes we did not succeed, in spite of many chances in the second half, then I changed playing style.

''Then, of course, with the quality of Fellaini we played more forward balls and we scored from that, so I think it was a very good decision of the manager.

''But, when you see overall the long ball, and what is the percentage of that, then West Ham have played 71 per cent of the long balls to the forwards and we 49.''

After reeling off the statistics, Van Gaal rose from his chair and handed the pamphlet to the reporter who asked the question about Allardyce.

The United boss asked the journalist to analyse the last three pages, which contained diagrams which contained coloured arrows pointing in the direction of both team's passes.

''I give you this and you can see that the blue ones are the good ones because long balls are also very difficult, which is why I began with the explanation of ball possession,'' the 63-year-old said.

"I give it to you, you can copy it and then maybe you can go to Big Sam and he will get a good interpretation.''

The whole scene was a slightly bizarre episode that evoked memories of Rafael Benitez's press conference rant, directed at Sir Alex Ferguson, over referees in 2009.

Van Gaal's overall tactics have come in for criticism this season.

United may be fourth in the Barclays Premier League, but the team lacks the energy, dynamism and flair of the Sir Alex Ferguson era.

Van Gaal said: ''I am happy with the results, but I also think we can improve which is also the process. We have talked about already from my first day, but we have to improve.''

Before the theatre and fireworks began, United revealed Paddy McNair had signed a new contract until 2017.

''I let a lot of players play in the first squad this season and I think that he has developed himself the most, so I am very happy that he has signed,'' said Van Gaal of 19-year-old McNair, who has played the majority of his 12 games for the club at centre-back.

''I am always happy to sign young players because that gives a good spirit to the youth academy of Manchester United, and also the culture of Manchester United is to produce youth players.

''I am very happy, he is very happy, and I hope that he shall develop himself still, more and more, and that he has a great future here in Manchester.''

Van Gaal's United take on Burnley at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Luke Shaw is suspended following his sending-off at West Ham and Michael Carrick is absent because of a calf injury.

Press Association

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