On Monday, Daniel Storey wrote his Significant Midweek column but dithered over his section on Louis van Gaal; there was practically nothing left to create. If felt read more like months given that he had written that there have been no longer any motives to keep the Dutchman; it felt like each day that he was writing that following United had turn out to be a chore for supporters rather than a pleasure. United were an endurance test not just for fans but for writers. What could you say about one more 0-0 draw or a narrow one-goal win that seemed to please the Dutchman rather greater than it must?
So it was with heavy heart that I sat down to watch Manchester United at Newcastle, armed with statistics about a criminal lack of first-half ambitions, a worrying lack of any goals at all, a disturbing lack of creativity, possession for possession;s sake and Wayne Rooney. You need to generally be armed with statistics about Wayne Rooney.
Football. Bloody hell.
Perhaps the hint was there inside the line-up. There was no Juan Mata for the initial time inside the Premier League this season, Van Gaal lastly losing patience with a player with out an assist considering that September. With Jesse Lingard match again, Van Gaal opted for pace on the flanks. Specifically, pace over possession. He even swapped Lingard and Anthony Martial so the Frenchman could make room for Ashley Young to overlap on the right.
The clue was there. For all Van Gaal;s supposed contentment with narrow wins over Swansea and then Sheffield United, he created modifications. He wanted far more movement. He wanted additional width. It was quick to laugh when he described relegation-embattled Newcastle as becoming ;in superior kind; nevertheless it was clear that he had noticed the Magpies at Arsenal once they passed the ball extremely nicely but struggled in front of target. He had every single right to anticipate the same again.
Instead from the slow, sideways possession that has brought so few early objectives, United seemed relatively content to cede control of your ball for the household side, confident that (go to fifa 16 coins) a) Newcastle didn’t possess the creativity to in fact get beyond their defence and b) United had the pace to hurt them around the counter-attack. He was initially suitable. It was Newcastle who had early possession for possession;s sake and also the guests who scored following their first meaningful attack, even though the way Young scampered down the wing suggested that Van Gaal had identified Newcastle;s left flank as a weakness.
A stroke of luck later (go to fifa 16 coins) (for what it;s worth, I agree with Jamie Carragher that it was a penalty) and United had been ahead. The second objective owed absolutely nothing to luck and all the things to the vision of Ander Herrera, the time-machine touch of Rooney plus the pace of Lingard. It was dynamic. It was devastating. It was damned fantastic enjoyable.
The match report can tell you the facts of the game but the fascinating story is the fact that Van Gaal produced a series of constructive moves – bringing on Memphis Depay for the flagging Lingard when most would have expected Juan Mata to be introduced to slow down play, eventually bringing on Mata for the tiring Herrera rather than Martial, pushing the Frenchman up front alongside Rooney when he sniffed a winner at 2-2. Along with the Dutchman in fact looked like he was enjoying the game; maybe he was remembering that he used to rather relish managing an attacking side.
;It feels like a defeat,; said Rooney just after a game that his team eventually drew 3-3. Given the chance, I would have asked if a 1-0 win over Sheffield United really felt like a victory. Following scoring two ambitions, making a different and generally looking like a potent attacking force, I would be surprised if Rooney did not enjoy Tuesday night more than Saturday tea-time; greater than most games this season, in fact.
There had been worrying elements to their performance at Newcastle – missed chances, sloppiness in possession and some frankly awful defending. While one particular problem was solved, a further raft appeared. This was far more Manchester City than Manchester United – exciting, fragile, open, frantic. As it;s City who are fighting for four trophies, that;s not such a terrible place to be. It;s also a pretty entertaining place.
We shall discover this weekend whether this was a one-off, whether Van Gaal will be frightened back into his shell by a six-goal thriller that showcased the best along with the worst of his squad once once more. Just a different best and a different worst. This is a side with all the components to be – if not brilliant – then much, much better. It;s just a shame that we so rarely see them inside the similar game.
When he calms down from the fury at two dropped points we hope he decides it;s worth throwing the dice again rather than keeping it inside the cupboard for rainy days. You won;t constantly get a pair of threes.