Gladjakker – Dutch saying: smooth talker who tells you what you want to hear
Kwibus – Dutch saying: a weird, idiosyncratic person
It’s hard to imagine what goes on inside Louis Van Gaal’s strangely shaped head (let’s invent a shape to describe his cranium – a vangaalagon).
He doesn’t appear to be oblivious to United’s current problems. Usually his post match comments echo the general opinions of the match going supporters. United aren’t creative enough. They need to pass the ball quicker in forward areas. They need to be more clinical. Van Gaal is happy to point these things out after each soul-eroding United display.
Louis would say that the solution to United’s apparent malaise, is the philosophy, and the philosophy must be revered and obeyed. Its deification must be maintained.
Initially, Van Gaal had been calling for time and patience to allow the players to grasp his “philosophy” – a set of practices and formulae so ingeniously complicated and layered that it apparently takes a great length of time for them to take root.
Louis said in July 2014 on United’s tour of the USA:
“The way I train and coach is in the brains, not the legs. But the most important thing is they have to know why we do things. When they do, the footballer is not playing intuitively.
“A lot of players are playing intuitively and I want them to think and know why they do something. That process is difficult at first in the first three months. It takes time.
“Every club where I have been, I’ve struggled for the first three months. After that, they [the players] know what I want”
After a dismal start to his first season, in November 2014, Louis said:
“It’s not good enough,” he said. “I feel very lousy for the fans in the first place and also the board because they have a great belief in me, my staff and my players. When you have 13 points from 10 matches you aren’t doing well but we are in a process.”
“I said from the beginning when we won every game in the United States [on tour] that the process shall take more than one year – it will take three years, I hope, because that is always dependent on a lot of things.”
Don’t even think about pointing out the obvious contradiction in Van Gaal’s words readers. It’s clear the players are at fault here. They didn’t have the mental capacity to absorb those tendrils of information and ingurgitate the sacred Gospel according to Van Gaal. These footballing amoebas needed time to evolve.
The philosophy requires many meetings, debriefs and discussions with his staff and players. Louis’ lectures are driving the players nuts if the papers are to be believed. But they simply don’t understand….
A further year down the line and performances are still insipid and uninspiring. The good performances from United are the anomalous intermissions from the regularly scheduled programming. They probably need to have more meetings.
Van Gaal’s call for patience has been at times replaced by a call for better players. United have spent a zillion pounds reshaping their squad, but Ashley Young “is not a Neymar” so of course United cannot succeed.
“I have said we need speedy, creative players in attack” said Louis, but not Di Maria or Januzaj obviously. They just didn’t get it. Herrera is a very creative player too – if only the little nuisance would stop running around trying to make things happen. How dare he attempt to do anything other than paint by numbers. Get on the bench you mutinous non-believer. You do not understand the philosophy.
“You have seen which players I have bought – but we need more” he said. Martial looked explosive and unpredictable when he first arrived. United fans joked: “How long until Louis coaches that out of him?” I wonder are they are laughing now? Memphis looked a player for about a month, now he looks bereft of confidence. Some would say he is trying too hard, I would say it looks as though he is thinking too much.
It’s the philosophy in full effect and it is quite obviously flawed.
How can you be expected to think deeply about your decisions in a sport where games are so often decided by thousands of actions made in fractions of seconds? I’m not saying football is a brainless game – of course it isn’t, but the balance between playing with instinct and playing with deliberation is so delicate. They are equally important factors in playing good football. Van Gaal says he believes in the “total human being principal”, but he is discounting and undervaluing some vital parts.
You could go one step further and say Van Gaal has systematically removed the ability of his players to adapt and react in attacking situations. The overload of information and encumbering instruction has stifled his players in an area of the pitch where expression and ingenuity win you football matches.
Organisational discipline is traditionally associated with defensive areas of the pitch and it’s here where United look far better under Louis direction. But organisational discipline does not translate to attacking areas of the pitch in the same way. The evidence is overwhelming and has been for nigh on 18 months now. And THIS is what frustrates United fans the most. Why continue with something that just won’t work? It’s like trying to paint a wall using a hammer – it makes no sense. Most people would stop after one attempt; Van Gaal would try to give the room two coats.
Unfortunately, the philosophy will never change – it is set in stone. Van Gaal will persist until he is chased out of Old Trafford by a disenchanted fanbase that has been bored into submission. That “process” has already begun.