Former Liverpool player and manager, Kenny Dalglish said it perfectly:
“Louis van Gaal may have had difficult starts at Bayern Munich and Barcelona – but nothing like this. I don’t know how much pressure the Dutchman was actually under at those clubs but this, at Manchester United, might just be the most extreme pressure he has ever experienced.”
While some United fans would want to disagree with that, Dalglish hasn’t said anything wrong. After the disaster year that followed David Moyes’ managerial stint, Old Trafford was crying for a saviour. After rejecting Jose Mourinho a year earlier, who better than the Chelsea manager’s old mentor, Louis van Gaal to rectify all that’s gone wrong?
While the Dutchman drew plenty of plaudits and did well to steer Holland to a third place finish in the 2014 World Cup – when many were expecting them to finish behind Chile and Spain in the group – it has also massively increased the expectations on the former Bayern manager.
It’s fair to say many expected him to hit the ground running – with no Champions League football either, van Gaal could solely focus on the league; something which has helped Roma, Juventus and most recently last season, Liverpool, with the decrease in fixtures.
However, it’s been anything but. United lost their opener at home against Swansea City while drawing with Sunderland away after taking the lead. To add insult to injury, League One side, MK Dons thrashed United 4-0 in the Capital One Cup.
It was always going to take time but not even the most pessimistic United fan would have expected a winless first three games of the season. To make matters more worrying is the fact that United have spent quite a lot this season – £59.7 million for Angel di Maria, £30 million for Luke Shaw and £28.5 million on Ander Herrera. And they might even spend more with the rumours of Arturo Vidal.
With these transfers, it’s interesting to note that Moyes never got his targets or spent this much in the summer preceding his first season, having an inferior squad to van Gaal. Sir Alex Ferguson also once mentioned £34 million being too much for one player – Eden Hazard in particular.
Of course, di Maria hasn’t played yet and the 3-5-2 formation could take time, but do United really have time on their side? With just two games in, they’re already 5 points behind the leaders and face a tricky away tie to Burnley. Confidence is already pretty low and another setback could have big consequences – van Gaal is already under big pressure.
Moyes never lost a game by more than 3 goals and van Gaal has already done that in his third game. He has the mentality, experience and personality to get United back on track but if things keep going this way, at what point do we stop defending the Dutchman?