Manchester United’s players are reportedly unhappy with the “supper club” routine manager Louis van Gaal adopted in the buildup to matches.
Chris Wheeler of the Daily Mail reported Wednesday some of the current squad are making private complaints over the matchday schedule, which sees the players take part in painstaking meetings.
According to the piece, under the tutelage of the Dutchman’s predecessor David Moyes and legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, the squad would usually have time to themselves, which is a luxury scarcely afforded under Van Gaal. Wheeler elaborated on some of the grievances which are said to be damaging the United players' morale:
Under Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes, the squad used to have time to themselves after dinner but now they have to attend a series of tedious meetings lasting several hours at the team hotel before gathering for a 10pm supper of cereal and toast.
For home games, Van Gaal’s players usually eat a dinner of chicken and pasta at their Carrington training base at 5 p.m. before leaving for Manchester’s Lowry Hotel. The meetings and supper are followed by a 10:30 p.m. bedtime. Even when United play away, Van Gaal tries to maintain the same routine.
It is something he introduced shortly after taking over at Old Trafford last year but it has become another element of Van Gaal’s strict repetitive approach that grates on United players. Van Gaal likes to go through training drills over and over again to instil his "philosophy," and he is a strong advocate of exhaustive team meetings to prepare for games and analyse performances.
“There’s no fun, no banter—just lots of meetings,” said a source quoted by Wheeler in the article. “The body language of the players isn’t right, and there’s no expression when they go out to play.”
As reported by Mike Keegan and Simon Jones of the MailOnline earlier in the campaign, senior players Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick previously complained to the manager about the regimented training sessions and subsequent low morale within the squad.
Those who have watched United regularly this season will not be surprised by those suggestions, as the team have played a moribund style of football under Van Gaal. Granted, it’s an approach that has helped the team push on to third place in the league, just one point off of the summit, although exciting football has been scarce at Old Trafford this term.
Daniel Harris of the Guardian recently suggested the team's performances are indicative of a strict regime:
According to a piece from Neil Custis of the Sun on Tuesday, the players are “bored” of the training methods the Dutchman's implementing. Coupled with the meetings, “supper club” reflections and dreary football, a far-from-contented picture is being painted of life behind the scenes at Old Trafford.
There are plenty who have heralded Van Gaal's work to this point, though. They are in a strong position in the Premier League table, and the defensive structure of the team is the division's finest. After a turbulent time under Moyes, the Dutchman has added some stability to the group.
However, the fact there’s a solid defence in situ should give the Red Devils more license to go forward, as the insurance is there. As Alex Shaw of ESPN FC noted, given this is Van Gaal’s second season, there should certainly be more of a swagger about United:
If the players are unhappy, as recent reports suggest, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not the Dutchman makes any alterations to his regime. He’s an intelligent man who will be acutely aware of the benefits of potentially making such changes, although Van Gaal is also staunch in his beliefs and will point to the club’s league standing as an indication of progress.
A balance is needed for any team to win major honours, not just in terms of playing style. Champions need to not only be sharp at both ends of the field if they’re to win the Premier League, but also ensure the majority are happy in the camp. At the moment, both on the pitch and off of it, it’s a balance that seems skewed for Van Gaal and United.