Manchester United drew very narrowly with West Ham last weekend, and naturally Hammers boss Allardyce was not pleased with his opponents dropping points right at the end of the game. After the match, Allardyce described Van Gaal’s team as “long-ball United”.
Van Gaal, who has said on many occasions that he wants his side to play “attractive football” must have been annoyed with Big Sam’s comments as he was prepared for questions in this regard to be posed at him in the pre-Burnley press conference. The Dutchman claimed that Allardyce’s “interpretation” was wrong and brandished a pamphlet filled with statistics to support his argument.
According to the figures,West Ham attempted 200 passes and United attempted 343. 71.1 per cent of West Ham’s “long passes” – of over 25 metres – went forward whereas United’s percentage was just 49.9 per cent. Diagrams in the pamphlet illustrated United’s passes going sideways or diagonally, rather than forward.
Because I expected this question, I have made an interpretation of the data for this game and then I have to say that it is not a good interpretation from Big Sam,” said Van Gaal.
The Dutchman insisted the fact that his team only started playing long passes once Marouane Fellaini was introduced in the 76th minute.
“When you have 60 per cent ball possession do you think that you can do that with long balls?” Van Gaal added.
“Yeah, long balls, in the width, to switch the play. You have to look at the data and then you will see that we did play long balls, but long balls wide, rather than to the striker.
“A ball to the forward striker is mainly caused long-ball play.
“It is not so difficult also to read that.
“I am sorry, but we are playing ball possession play and after 70 minutes we did not succeed, in spite of many chances in the second half, then I changed my playing style.
“Then, of course, with the quality of Fellaini we played more forward balls and we scored from that, so I think it was a very good decision of the manager.
“But, when you see overall the long ball, and what is the percentage of that, then West Ham have played 71 per cent of the long balls to the forwards and we 49.”
After talking about all these stats, Van Gaal went and handed the pamphlet to the reporter who asked the question about Allardyce.
“I give you this and you can see that the blue ones are the good ones because long balls are also very difficult, which is why I began with the explanation of ball possession,” the 63-year-old said.
“When you have 60 per cent ball possession you cannot play long balls. So again, they did it 71 (per cent) and we 49, and I give it to you, you can copy it and then maybe you can go to Big Sam and he will get a good interpretation.”