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Louis Van Gaal and the route one approach at Manchester United



Frank De Boer says Van Gaal is fighting to change the style of football at Manchester United. Not quite Frank, not quite.

Manchester United manager has been constantly criticised this season for this direct approach in most games.

According to stats, Manchester United have used more long balls than the likes of Arsenal and City combined and have often resorted to a route one approach to grind out the points.

Compatriot and Ajax manager Frank De Boer has stated that Van Gaal is struggling to change the style at Old Trafford and it is not the way his teams set up.

“Van Gaal is struggling a little bit at Manchester United,” he told talkSPORT. “Not with the amount of points he’s got, but with his style.

“It’s not the way he wants to play. He’s fighting to get there. At the moment it’s not the football that we are used to with Louis.”

For starters, the most important thing in modern football is getting results and Van Gaal has done that so far. This article is not another attempt to have digs at the Manchester United boss.

However, De Boer’s comments pose an interesting question. If Manchester United’s football is different to what Van Gaal wants, is it then safe to assume that the fallen giants are still struggling to recover from the David Moyes season?

It is easy to question the former United manager and play the blame game, but fact of the matter is Louis Van Gaal is equally to blame for Manchester United’s so called direct style of play. This has been further highlighted in Van Gaal’s formations/team selections and the surprise decision to exclude Ander Herrera from the starting lineup quite often.

It does seem odd to exclude your best and only metronome in favour of a more physical box to box midfielder in the form of Fellaini, especially if you are looking to incorporate a passing style of football, no?

Although the former Netherlands manager has struggled with injuries, he has the resources to switch to a more possession based football. The likes of Di Maria, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Daley Blind are all comfortable on the ball and could function extremely well in a diamond. However, Van Gaal’s inclination towards a 3-5-2 has meant that the likes of Mata and Herrera have not had the chance to make a considerable impact in the first team so far.

Stats show an interesting performance graph for United so far. Having used the diamond 9 times so far, Van Gaal’s team have won 6 times and drawn once. During this spell, the Old Trafford outfit have played most of their attacking football with lovely interchange and link up play. Whereas, the 3-5-2 system, employed 12 times in the league has brought only 5 wins for the Red Devils.

Even if i were to assume that Van Gaal prefers a flamboyant style of football, his team selections and formations speak otherwise. The manager has consciously picked a side and formation with direct football in mind and that has translated onto the pitch.

The debate can go on and on whether Van Gaal is responsible for this “style” or not, but for those without the red tinted glasses, this is Van Gaal’s style and there is nothing wrong with it, as long as it works.