Louis van Gaal’s lack of imagination could be detrimental for Manchester United

Credits: Flickr Commons
Credits: Flickr Commons /

As Alexis Sanchez breezed his way past Matteo Darmian on the edge of the penalty box, dropping his shoulder and unleashing a beastly strike into the top right hand corner to get his second and Arsenal’s third, my heart sank a bit. Actually, way more than just a bit.

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Was this the same organised and well-drilled defensive unit which had performed so astutely so far before the embarrassment on Sunday? It appeared as though the red card at the Etihad Stadium last season had galvanised Chris Smalling, who is finally turning into the kind of player Sir Alex Ferguson thought he would eventually become.

Daley Blind, even though not the quickest, used his intelligent footballing brain to perfection and sniffed out any potential danger which came in the form of tall and imposing forwards.

An added bonus came in the form of his exquisite passing range which helped him in bringing the ball forward and giving Manchester United’s attacking play a new dimension. All in all, they both formed a pretty solid defensive pair even though one among them was a holding midfielder.

His lack of pace was exposed partly at the Liberty Stadium when Bafetimbi Gomis gave him quite a headache, leaving him for dead on occasions with a quick turn off the ball or a sudden burst of energy and pace. But, at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, Blind’s frailties were exploited ruthlessly by Theo Walcott and Sanchez.

The Dutch international was left chasing shadows whenever either of the two got the ball and were off on their bikes. It’s practically impossible to assume that van Gaal was unaware of Arsenal’s pace on the counter. He knew that they could cause a havoc of epic proportions if they had a go at goal with Blind in front of them.

And so they did.

It’s understandable that van Gaal didn’t want to disturb the balance of the Manchester United team by dropping Blind and including Phil Jones in the starting eleven but it’s pretty obvious that teams with bags of pace are way too much for Blind to handle.

However, the way in which Sanchez had Darmian on toast for the entirety of the first half was what left me absolutely gutted. The Italian, whose been one of Manchester United’s best and most consistent signings of the summer was torn to shreds by the Chilean winger. Moreover, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay’s inability to track back and help out their full-backs only added to the teams woes.

Additionally, van Gaal’s decision to play both Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger so high up the pitch was beyond baffling. Due to them being involved too high up on the pitch, the defence was left completely uncovered and the Arsenal attackers took complete advantage of this situation. Maybe the inclusion of a ball-winner like Morgan Schneiderlin could’ve worked but it doesn’t matter anymore.

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However, it is worth pondering upon van Gaal’s decision to not shake things up when United went 2-0 down within the opening seven minutes of the game. You can argue that maybe if Darmian was put out of his misery earlier than when he actually was, things might have been different. The general consensus surrounding him is that he is a no-nonsense manager who isn’t afraid of implementing changes.

This very attitude of his has been the catalyst behind him falling-out with several superstars in his illustrious managerial career. So why didn’t the Dutchman chip and chop his team and freshen up things by bringing on Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini from the bench earlier than what he did in order to force a comeback?

Was it his lack of imagination? Or was it his belief that his side could recover from such a situation and even things out? This is what he said in his post-match press conference to defend his decision:

"“No because it was not only one player for me to take a measure. It was more than half of my team I think that was not doing what he had agreed in our game plan.”"

I partly agree with what the gaffer said but I’m also of the opinion that the impact which even a couple of players could’ve possibly had on the ongoing proceedings would have been influential in determining the overall outcome of the match

This attitude of being averse to changes in case things on the pitch go wrong should change for the good of the club. It seems as though he is too stubborn to accept that his desired starting eleven isn’t up to scratch or is failing to get a grip on the game in a tactical sense and needs a bit of freshening. The timing of this situation couldn’t have been more ideal.

With tough away assignments in the form of Everton and Crystal Palace along with the huge Manchester derby coming up, it is time that van Gaal revisits his thoughts and ideals and shows some kind of willingness towards invoking some changes in case a situation similar to the one which occurred during the weekend pops up in the near future.

Next: Can Rooney come back from the brink at Man Utd?