Why Manchester United Fans Are Frustrated with Louis van Gaal

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2015

Manchester United's Dutch manager Louis van Gaal awaits kick off in the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park in south London on October 31, 2015. The game finished 0-0.  AFP PHOTO / OLLY GREENWOOD. 

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Manchester United’s regular match-going fans are, by and large, a patient bunch. They often sang the name of David Moyes, even in his latter days as manager. They have plenty of cause to be patient, of course, having witnessed more success in their lifetimes than the fanbase of any other English club.

However, as United played out an uninspiring 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace on Saturday, there was plenty of evidence those in attendance were frustrated with the style of football Louis van Gaal has brought to the Red Devils.

There were hints early on in the encounter that Paul Scholes’ criticism of the style of play to BBC Radio Manchester (h/t Mike Keegan of MailOnline) had struck a chord with supporters.

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

United fans spontaneously chant Scholes' name now. Hint of mutiny perhaps. #mufc

It is not unusual for the names of ex-players to be sung by the travelling faithful, but as Samuel Luckhurst of Manchester Evening News observed on Twitter, this did not come as part of the normal airing of the songbook. It was, indeed, a "hint of mutiny."

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

Re. the Scholes chant. United fans weren't going through their repertoire of ex-players' songs. It was very deliberate.

The mutiny was confirmed during the second half when a frustrated away end began to sing, "We’re Man United, we want to attack."

Set to that perennially adaptable football chant tune, "Sloop John B" it could not have been a clearer message that for all the positive change Van Gaal has brought about, such as United’s defensive organisation and comfort in possession, the lack of cutting edge is making watching the football tough to enjoy.

The repeated refrain of "Attack, attack, attack!" was also heard, painting a picture of a group of fans that is no longer content with the fare on display.

Asked about the fans’ response in his post-match press conference, Van Gaal said, "The right of the fans is always that [to sing]." He suggested that this game and the defeat to Arsenal were the only away games so far this season in which United were not the best side, meaning the fans had been well catered for.

He finished his answer by saying, "They can sing that but maybe they shall sing at the next match another way," meaning, of course, they may be happier with United’s next performance.

The culture shock brought about by Van Gaal’s ultra-patient approach has clearly not yet worn off. In truth, if results were better, then criticism of the manner of play would be less pronounced. However, United have played out three 0-0 draws in a row.

All the positives to be found in those games have been to do with defensive organisation. As Scholes said, relayed by Keegan, United are "a team you wouldn’t want to play against." Scholes, of course, caused controversy by suggesting they are also "a team you would’t want to play in either."

Scholes in action for United
Scholes in action for UnitedJon Super/Associated Press

It is also fair to say that in the month of October, with the exception of a superb performance at Goodison Park, United have not been a team particularly worth watching, at least not if you are in search of exciting, attacking football.

Palace manager Alan Pardew was asked about United’s style in his post-match press conference and spoke of the importance of seizing upon moments of opportunity when playing a patient style.

This has been United’s key problem in the past few weeks. There have been plenty of underwhelming individual performances, particularly from Wayne Rooney, who has struggled to make an impact at centre-forward.

This has been a major issue with the style of play, as Rooney has neither succeeded in creating space nor made good use of the ball when it has reached him. He is not alone in that, but he is perhaps the primary culprit in terms of attacking opportunities breaking down.

It has not all been doom and gloom. The defensive certainty is a significant improvement over last season.

There have also been moments of excitement. Anthony Martial remains a potent threat and exciting in possession. His goal against CSKA Moscow, the last United scored, was a gem.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31:  Louis van Gaal Manager of Manchester United (R) looks dejected as he walks off the pitch with Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata of Manchester United (L) after their 0-0 draw in the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Pala
Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

The problem is they have been too few and far between. From the evidence in the stands at Selhurst Park, Van Gaal will have to address this problem sooner rather than later if he wants to keep the fans onside.

All quotations obtained firsthand except where otherwise specified.


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