Comment: Safe, timid and boring… Louis needs to let the shackles off Man Utd

Sir Alex Ferguson did not have a goalless draw in his final 116 games in charge.

Louis van Gaal, by contrast, amassed three stalemates in a week last month and so far nine of his 66 games in charge have resulted in dead rubbers.

With Champions League destiny in their own hands and the team currently second in the Premier League, many would feel that Manchester United fans should be feeling upbeat regarding the Van Gaal reign.

However the Old Trafford faithful are becoming increasingly disgruntled with the Dutchman’s safe and tedious approach to football matches.

United were booed off after the drab 0-0 draw with PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday but  if they beat Leicester City on Saturday they will go top of the league.

United fans were well aware of the team’s defensive deficiencies when the former Netherlands manager took over the reins as the loss of influential figures Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra left a gaping hole in the Red Devils’ backline.

Van Gaal has been commended for fixing the troublesome defence but the Stretford End wants to see a United side going for the jugular and striking fear into the opposition instead of trying to pass the opponents into submission.

United travel to high-flying Leicester later on Saturday and it was in this corresponding fixture last season that the 20-time champions’ defensive vulnerability was clearly showcased.

A team which consisted of Ander Herrera, Angel Di Maria, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao captured the fans imagination and highlighted the teams attacking prowess.

Falcao and Van Persie combined for Manchester United’s opener before record signing Di Maria took centre stage with a sumptuous lob. Herrera then showed his credentials as a goal-scoring midfielder and put United into a commanding 3-1 lead at the King Power Stadium.

Seemingly in cruise control, United then completely succumbed to Leicester’s onslaught and went on to lose 5-3.

The former Bayern Munich and Barcelona manager seemed perplexed by his side’s capitulation as not only did Jamie Vardy prove a real thorn in United’s defence, but the inexperienced Tyler Blackett received his marching orders after a clumsy foul on Vardy and there was a glaring lack of defensive leadership within the United ranks.

The dramatic loss has been a pivotal moment in Van Gaal’s tenure however, as since that traumatic day last September United have come a long way defensively and Van Gaal has steadily turned the Red Devils into an extremely organised robust defensive unit.

The David De Gea saga was crucial in United’s pursuit for major honours this season after the drama of transfer deadline day: retaining the Spanish stopper has bolstered United’s defence. But the ever growing emergence of Chris Smalling has helped United to earn the best defence in the Premier League.

United have conceded nine goals this season compared to 15 at this stage last year, yet under Van Gaal United seem to have lost their attacking identity.

The days of teams coming to Old Trafford and parking the bus seem a distant past. The current United outfit lack invention and there is a growing concern that Van Gaal is too stubborn to steer away from his possession based philosophy and allow his players to play with freedom.

United had one of the best players in the world last season in Di Maria but instead of playing to the Argentine’s strengths and making him the focal point of the side, Van Gaal wanted the former Real Madrid midfielder to adapt to his methods.

Di Maria became disillusioned with life at Old Trafford and decided to jump ship at the first opportunity, now plying his trade in the French capital, Di Maria seems to be thriving at Paris Saint Germain under Laurent Blanc.

United, at least on paper, possess an inventive forward line with Anthony Martial, Memphis Depay and Jesse Lingard injecting some much-needed exuberance, although they still seem to be playing with fear.

Juan Mata continues to be deployed as a false right winger even though the little Spaniard is not blessed with blistering pace. Van Gaal is reluctant to play the former Chelsea man in his favoured number 10 role as the Dutchman believes he is too sloppy in possession.

Wayne Rooney’s importance and role under Van Gaal’s stewardship continues to be heavily scrutinised. England’s all-time top scorer is struggling to have an attacking influence on matches and due to the team lacking an attacking spark, United are becoming increasingly dull to watch.

Van Gaal’s team have scored 19 times so far in the league, which is nine fewer than Saturday’s opponents, the fewest out of the top seven teams and three fewer than at this stage last year.

The regular cries of ‘Attack, Attack, Attack’ are becoming far too apparent and it is no surprise that they have only produced 19 top flight goals when there seems to be a reluctance to shoot.

Compared to Manchester City’s 164 shots, Arsenal’s 162, Tottenham’s 150 and Leicester City’s 144, United have only conjured up 96 in comparison, underlining Van Gaal’s rigid and timid approach to games.

Out of United’s 24 Premier League campaigns this current season ranks as the 21st for goals scored after 13 games, however in the 1992-93 and 2002-03 seasons when they had netted just 14 and 17 goals respectfully at this stage they did on go to win the title.

Even though the results have gradually taken an upward trajectory the style or lack of football being produced at Old Trafford is frustrating not only the fans but legends too.

Paul Scholes has been consistently vocal in his criticism of the way Van Gaal’s team has played. On Wednesday night, he pitched in again and was joined by former United captain Roy Keane.

Some of the decisions have been peculiar too. Van Gaal has inherited a positive reputation for integrating young players into the senior side but the decision to allow James Wilson and Adnan Januzaj – arguably two of United’s most impressive prospects – to leave on loan has been met with sheer bemusement.

Manchester United have improved under Van Gaal but the fact that they are now labelled as a tough team to beat highlights the fall from attacking grace.

After the turbulent short reign under David Moyes, fans knew a rebuilding job would take time but the appointment of Van Gaal was partly down to his ability to produce an attacking, exciting brand of football that thus far has not materialised.

The murmurs of discontent could become even louder if Van Gaal refuses to steer away from his dull brand of football and fails to re-establish the attacking verve which was for so long instilled into United’s DNA.

Image courtesy of MUTV via YouTube, with thanks.

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