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5 reasons why Man United have improved under Louis van Gaal

The Red Devils secured their target of a top-four finish this season.

Louis van Gaal oversaw United's fourth-place finish this season.
Louis van Gaal oversaw United's fourth-place finish this season.

AFTER A TRANSITIONAL period at Old Trafford and David Moyes’ ill-fated baptism of fire, Louis van Gaal’s appointment has had the desired effect and the club have secured a coveted top-four spot this season.

Problems remain though — United have spent heavily on players who have struggled to perform at times (Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria), and they ultimately finished just six points better off than last season.

However, the Red Devils are undoubtedly now in a far healthier position than they were 12 months ago, and LVG can look back at the season with some satisfaction.

With that in mind, here are five ways the Dutchman has improved the club…

1. Playing players on form rather than reputation

Last season, under David Moyes, you get the sense that the Scottish manager failed to stand up to big players at times.

He appeared to overlook Rio Ferdinand’s public criticism of him, while certain star players appeared undroppable.

Van Gaal, on the other hand, possesses the gravitas to drop high-profile players if they are not performing.

For instance, it didn’t matter that Angel Di Maria cost £60million — when Ashley Young was excelling, he put the England international in the team ahead of the Argentine winger. Would Moyes have done likewise? Probably not.

2. Adaptability 

One game that stands out from the David Moyes era is the 2-2 Premier League draw with the soon-to-be-relegated Fulham at Old Trafford.

During the match, United produced over 80 crosses but failed to score once from these instances, and this summed up the rather one-dimensional approach they seemed to adopt all too often under the former Everton boss.

In this regard, Louis van Gaal is very much the antithesis to Moyes — indeed, he has been accused of tinkering too much at times with the team, playing three at the back one moment, before promptly switching to a more conventional four-man defence the next.

Of course, constantly changing styles can be problematic as well, and perhaps partially explains Man United’s inconsistency this season. However, the Red Devils certainly looked far less predictable this season in comparison with the Moyes era.

3. Media dealings and presence

Source: SPORTS CHANNEL/YouTube

Although Moyes had managed Everton for several years in the Premier League before taking over at Old Trafford, he seemed to suffer somewhat of a culture shock in his new role, given the increased scrutiny the Scot was under as coach of one of the world’s biggest clubs.

On more than one occasion, he appeared ill-at-ease during interviews, and made the occasional glaring faux-pas — his suggestion that Man United should “aspire” to be more like bitter rivals City springs to mind (see video above).

Van Gaal, meanwhile, has more of a presence and authority about him when dealing with the media. Check out this fiery interview below…

Source: BeanymanSports/YouTube

Moreover, the Dutch coach looks altogether more comfortable in the Old Trafford hotseat, having already managed a number of big clubs, and it’s therefore no surprise that there are less rumours of dressing room unrest emanating from the club — Van Gaal, with his record of winning trophies, will have not have had to have worked particularly hard to convince United’s coterie of star players that he was worthy of the position.

4. Home comforts

Comparing United’s stats over the past two seasons is a curious exercise.

Their significantly improved home record is one reason for their better fortunes this term — last season, they managed nine wins, three draws and a Premier League record of seven losses at Old Trafford, compared with 14 wins, two draws and three losses this campaign.

Although, their away record has actually gotten considerably worse, looking at the situation purely from a PR perspective, winning at home is more important — losing at Old Trafford gave fans greater opportunities to express their dissatisfaction and created headlines, owing to the loud boos that greeted these losses.

So while Van Gaal’s United are far from perfect, they have at least positively relished the task of playing at home, in stark contrast with last season.

5. Luck

An important and often underrated factor in football, Van Gaal had several factors working in his favour compared with his predecessor.

Firstly, there was the extra cash the club were willing to spend on players on account of their 2013-14 failure, with some individuals, such as Daley Blind and Ander Herrera, integrating more successfully than others.

Secondly, there was the reduced expectations that lessened the pressure on the Dutchman took an extent — Moyes inherited a side who were the reigning Premier League champions, while Van Gaal took over a team that had just finished seventh.

And finally, the league in general has become less competitive compared with the previous campaign.

Last year, four sides were challenging for the title as late as April, whereas this year, Chelsea triumphed comfortably. And while Jose Mourinho’s men have improved significantly of late, all United’s other top-four rivals have either stagnated or gotten worse over the past 12 months.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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