As if Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal doesn't have enough problems, now he has to deal with ex-players criticising his new team. Van Gaal is the brunt of fierce criticism in an article from former United right-back Paul Parker for Eurosport.Yahoo.com, lamenting United's struggling team.
Star striker Wayne Rooney is also unsurprisingly a primary target. Here are some of the highlights of what Parker had to say about Van Gaal and Rooney:
But right near the top of their list of problems is leadership, because Louis van Gaal's decision to make Wayne Rooney his captain was ridiculous. ...
And Wayne Rooney was never going to be that man. He's the absolute archetype of a player who thinks that leadership is simply about shouting and screaming.
Who in their right mind would actually think that? It wouldn't work on a factory floor, so why would it work on a football pitch? Because one thing's pretty clear: Rooney isn't shouting to make his words of advice, encouragement and inspiration heard - he's just losing his rag an bellowing at his fellow players.
Parker offered the name of Rooney's strike partner and Van Gaal's countryman, Robin van Persie, as a more appropriate choice. He also pointed to a potential problem once Van Persie returns to the team.
The Dutchman is being rested after exertions at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but Parker believes he and Rooney will never gel as a pairing. In fact, Parker struggles to find a place for Rooney in his version of United's ideal attack:
Up front, Van Persie's return from injury will cause trouble - because I still don't believe that he and Rooney can play well together. Rooney is only ever any good up front as a conventional centre-forward, he simply doesn't have the guile or craft to play the number 10 role - and when he tries it, his attempts end up looking nothing short of brutish.
It seems more than a little harsh to rule Rooney out altogether. Yes, the England international has endured a rough time as of late, but he is still a supremely gifted player.
It's also dangerous to endorse Van Persie as an ideal leader. He was hardly a model skipper when Arsenal chief Arsene Wenger gave him the armband for the 2011/12 season. But there's no denying that like Rooney, Van Persie is a lethal forward.
A manager of Van Gaal's repute and experience certainly ought to be able to find a way to fashion an effective forward line featuring both Rooney and Van Persie.
United's talent in attack is the key to their hopes of a revival this season, after finishing seventh in the Premier League in their last campaign. Rooney and Van Persie can still strike fear into the hearts of most top-flight defenders.
Van Gaal also needs a potent attack to compensate for a plethora of problems at the back. Veteran stalwarts Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra have left. Taking their places are players such as the brittle and erratic duo Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
United are also having to adapt to a new tactical structure, namely Van Gaal's favoured 3-5-2 dynamic. It's a formation that doesn't escape Parker's blistering verbal assault:
Possibly, just possibly, if Van Gaal had his entire back five from the Dutch national team then he might be able to pull it off - but the personnel are crucial, because with 3-5-2 everything has to start from the back. With the players in the squad at United right now it's a disaster.
Fixing the defence with new faces, ones who suit his system, should be the primary focus of Van Gaal's first transfer window. It's work the club is already undertaking:
Parker's rant is just part of United's turbulent current woes. The club still hasn't recovered from Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, or from the way Ferguson let the squad fall into disrepair.
The calamitous decision to appoint David Moyes as his successor only exposed problems that were already lurking beneath the surface. It's high time many, including pundits like Parker, realised just how big of a challenge restoring United's former glories is going to be for Van Gaal.
He won't fix everything in one transfer window, or even two. The veteran Dutch strategist noted how it took time to get things right at clubs like FC Bayern Munich, per Manchester Evening News reporter Rob Dawson: "In Bayern, after the first three months, we were sixth or seventh and we were third in the Champions League group,” he said. "We had to win at Juventus and we won that game and that was the turning point."
Successful restoration at Old Trafford will be a process. It's one that should include Rooney.
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