Louis Van Gaal misses out yet again as Manchester United lack the ammunition to shoot down the high-flying Swans. Garry Monka s Swansea City have entered the top four just before the international break, pushing United down to fifth.
Louis Van Gaala s 50th game for Manchester United ended exactly in the same manner as his first, as United lost 2-1 to Swansea City yet again. Incidentally, three games in a row have now yielded the same result for Manchester United and Louis van Gaal. A?230 million and 50 games later, still unable to pull together a win over a mid-table club like Swansea, the Dutchman can thank his pedigree for still keeping the job.
Manchester United were blunt upfront, narrow in the build-up and as predictable as a cassette stuck on repeat in attack. After the lucky break for United in the 49th minute which saw Juan Mata take the lead from the near-post, Swansea reacted quickly and with surprising ease to lead 2-1 by the 66th minute. A United defence that boasted three clean sheets were quickly put to shambles as the duo of Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis scored in the gap of five minutes. The Monk masterstroke which saw the Swans shift to a midfield diamond, with the introduction of Ki Sung-yueng proved to be the difference, as confirmed by Van Gaal in the post-match press conference “After 1-0 they changed their shape and then we couldn’t cope with that, so that’s not good.”
The goals could more or less be put down to a bit of bad luck and bad goalkeeping, but a team like United should be creating a lot more upfront. The first goal came from a cheap giveaway by Wayne Rooney, just when United had broken higher up the pitch, trying to secure the game with another goal. But Swansea’s counter-attack proved to be a little too swift for the likes of Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian as the swerving cross in by Gylfi Sigur sson found the head of Ayew and into the back of the net. Whereas the second was entirely down to poor decision-making from the Argentine between the sticks. Sergio Romero unnecessarily caught off the line, had a low Gomis shot go through his legs, leaving the Dutchman questioning his own stand regarding the David De Gea situation.
Uniteda s bullishness regarding De Gea could come back to haunt the Dutchman
One of the worlda s best goalkeepers sat in the stands, and a keeper who couldn’t even make the starting XI of a second-tier Italian side started between the sticks for United. This farcical situation with De Gea is all the cluba s own making. Three clean sheets in three games and Van Gaala s decision regarding Romero in goal seemed to be the right one. But the Argentine was never tested until last night against Monka s men and if United are to be stuck with him in goal for the rest of the season, Van Gaal might as well start preparing his resignation letter.
De Gea and even Victor Valdes could have made an incredible difference in this game. United clearly have dug themselves a hole with this whole goalkeeper fiasco and they could find themselves in even more trouble if they are to accept a bid for the lanky Spaniard in the next 48 hours.
A season past and the philosophy still remains hidden
Blaming the goalkeeper frankly doesna t solve any of Uniteda s problems, as the real dilemma lies in the slow safe predictable football Van Gaal has his team playing, week in week out. A creative engine that boasts of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juan Mata, Memphis Depay and Ander Herrera created very few chances, considering the staggering 64 percent possession that the team enjoyed. The only threat going forward was Luke Shaw, who has been Uniteda s most effective player so far.
Manchester Uniteda s build-up in front of the opposing backline is narrow and slow and very easy to defend against for any quality side, clearly visible from the three goals scored by United this season, one of them an own goal, another a deflection and the other a scrappy near-post finish. Van Gaala s mechanised conservative approach has taken out the sting of this extremely talented squad. No one is allowed to play risky balls, with possession the only requirement of the Dutchman, as players like Herrera and Mata no longer play the forward ball, passing from side to side. Try otherwise and one finds himself warming the bench for the next month or more, something Herrera knows first-hand and so did the prolific Angel Di Maria, who forced his way out of the club this summer, owing to lack of first-team football.
The curious case of Wayne Rooney
The only player who seems to be immune to any of this is the misfiring England and United captain Wayne Rooney. With the Swansea game, Rooney has extended his drought to ten league games, a career-worst. The last time this happened was at Everton in the 2002-a 03 season. Yet the Dutchman has no intent of even entertaining the idea of dropping Rooney.
All this while the blame has been on the non-creative midfield of United, but certainly Rooney has no excuses for last nighta s game. The United striker failed to even pull off a decent shot of the number of chances that fell to him. Two of the situations had him in a one on one situation with the goalkeeper and both times the England captain was guilty of the extra touch which let the trailing defender nick the ball from behind.
After the Brugge game where the England forward scored a hat-trick, running in behind defenders to score clinically, many would have thought Rooney to have finally rediscovered the striker in him. Sadly, the 29-year old striker no longer looks the prolific finisher he was and in all fairness to the Englishman, Rooney has rarely played the out and out No.9 role in the last decade (the last was the season after United had sold Cristiano Ronaldo). The Liverpudlian prefers to see the ball more and create the play rather than be isolated upfront, trying to stretch the defence.
Van Gaal has clearly stated that his captain will not be dropped no matter what. It would be better if the English forward dropped down as a number 10 at the expense of a Herrera or Mata and Manchester United brought in a striker within the next 48 hours, rather than the Dutchman depending entirely on Rooney to provide all the goals.
The Swans are a Premier League force
“We’re a good team and we are a force in this league. When we’re playing our best we can be unbelievable.” said Gary Monk in his post-match conference. With 8 points in the bag, having played Chelsea away and United at home, the Swansea are in surreal form as they look to improve upon the 8th place finish from last year.
The win continues Swanseaa s unbeaten run in the league, as well as Monka s 100 per cent record over the Dutchman. This third victory proved that Monk is indeed turning out to be Van Gaala s bogeyman. The United midfield led by the most experienced Schweinsteiger simply couldna t cope with the opposing teama s tactical shift to a midfield diamond as the change saw the visitors concede two goals in the gap of five minutes. Once Gomis took the lead, United immediately threw on Marouane Fellaini, the Dutchmana s Plan-B, taking off the two most creative players on the pitch in Mata and Herrera as Ashley Young whipped in desperate cross after cross towards the big Belgian, hoping for an equalizer.
Swansea were clearly the better side, tactically astute, far more ambitious and much more clinical as they yet again stomped over Van Gaala s United, leaving the Dutchman questioning the progress he has made after managing United for 50 games.