Louis van Gaal has learnt a lot about Manchester United traditions this week, from speaking in honour of the lost Busby Babes to answering questions about his side’s style of play.
February 6 1958. After two aborted takeoffs, eight Manchester United players and three staff members were among the 23 who died in Munich as their plane, tragically, set off for a third time.
On Friday, Van Gaal was among those who paid their respects, laying flowers in memory of those who perished on the darkest day in the Manchester club’s history.
Speaking at a moving ceremony 57 years on from the disaster, the United boss sang with fans and reminded all present that they must never forget.
“I represent the club. I think the players who died played a big part in the history of the club. We must remember that always,” he said.
Then, reading from a passage, the Dutch boss went on to remind those present that “we must continue to play the United way.”
In his press conference on the same day, Van Gaal was quizzed about the ‘United way’ and what it meant to him.
“It is not a question of playing with wingers or without wingers or playing with three defenders of four defenders. It is the playing style which is attractive,” was his response.
“Okay, until now we could have played better in possession. We have unnecessary losses in ball possession and we have to improve that, but I think that we have a very good defensive organisation and also a very good attacking organisation.
“We are fourth in the goalscoring league and third or fourth in goals conceded. I don’t think we are very bad – we are very good but we can improve.”
Whatever their finishing position, United will only want to see an improvement in their play from now until the end of the season.
Drop points and they have a host of clubs waiting to overtake them. Push on and they might, just might, overhaul neighbours Manchester City in second, who are just five points to the good.
Van Gaal’s side face West Ham on Sunday knowing the Londoners, despite their 2-1 loss to United earlier in the season, have already beaten Liverpool and Man City at the Boleyn Ground this season.
And Van Gaal knows they will have to be at their best if they are to kick on and complete a great week which has already produced victories over Leicester and Cambridge.
“It shall not be easy, but we want to continue [winning this week]. We have to win in London,” added the former Netherlands manager.
“After we beat Leicester we were third in the league. After that, we beat Cambridge and we are in the next round of the FA Cup.
“Now, we have to continue and all of the players know that it’s true, but it’s not so easy because we have to play away in London against West Ham and it was a tough game in Manchester.”
The Red Devils travel to eighth-placed West Ham with an almost fully-fit squad: Michael Carrick, who is recovering from a ruptured muscle, will be Van Gaal’s only absentee.
United go into the game with just one defeat in 16 games and victory could lift them four points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal, who play Spurs on Saturday.
Meanwhile Sam Allardyce’s side have won just one of their last six and will be without first choice striker Andy Carroll, who was injured against his old club Liverpool last weekend.
Game on for United.
Main image courtesy of FIFA TV via YouTube, with thanks.