Sunday, September 21, 2014

Welcome to England, Van Gaal. Leicester City 5 - 3 Manchester United

It was a defeat every bit na├»ve, comical and farcical even by the low standards set under David Moyes last season. As far as I can remember the record books, Manchester United never lost a league game under Sir Alex Ferguson after having a 2 goal lead. That is a small matter to 1000 odd games we are talking about. Today United let go 0-2 and 1-3 leads to eventually get beaten by 5-3. There were some atrocious refereeing decisions, of which more later. 

United started as the brighter side and raced to a 2-0 lead with goals from Robin Van Persie and Angel Di Maria. The first from an excellent curving delivery, which RVP headed in, from Radamal Falcao and the second from an absolutely delightful chip from Angel Di Maria, after exchanging passes with Rooney who started behind the 2 strikers. Leicester got one immediately back, from a delivery which should have been called out. Ander Herrera’s goal in the second half restored United’s 2 goal lead but what happened after that was disastrous. 

On 1994, exactly to this day, a red haired wiry youngster made his debut for Manchester United against Port Vale and scored both the goals in a 2-1 victory. Over the course of the next 18 years Pauls Scholes became a living legend and one of the best in Europe, who controlled the Manchester United midfield with conviction. It is debatable that, with Scholes on the pitch, United would not have suffered the meltdown they had today, but I am pretty sure that he wouldn’t have allowed the complete lack of recovery which was on show today after Leicester took control. Once the 3rd goal went in from Esteban Cambiasso, United players went into panic mode and the foxes took in charge.

Tyler Blackett had started every Premier Leage game this season, and he has been solid, to say the least. Today he made a bad decision for a last ditch tackle towards the fag end of the match when Leicester was leading and sent off for a professional foul with a penalty awarded too. While this was a correct decision, Mark Clattenburg’s other 2 decisions which had a greater impact on the game were abysmal.  Even with Howard Webb on the scene, I have no doubt in my mind that Mark has been the best referee in the League for the last 3 seasons. He has been decisive, authoritative and correct on most of the occasions, coming to this season. That doesn’t mask the fact that he had a completely off day today. First he failed to spot the ball going out, which he should have done considering that he was closer to the ball than the linesman, and the resulting delivery went in for the first goal. Then, United leading 1-3 and threatening more, he failed to award a foul on Rafael and then proceeded to award a penalty against him for a nonexistent foul. That, in my opinion, changed the complexion of the match though the panic and meltdown followed was entirely United’s fault.

Louis Van Gal looked every bit downcast after the match and understandably so. Until now he did not have a welcome to England the way he wished, and going by today’s performance it will be a long time before it comes.

It is time to deliver. Manchester United 4 - 0 QPR

David De Gea is the player who can be called the most improved in the last 2 years at Old Trafford. Of late, he is getting close to the final package and the only glitch in his armour is his reluctance to come forward in the box. Today, on 32nd minute, with United leading by a single goal, he charged straight out of his box to tackle a long ball, to only completely miss out, presenting Matt Phillips a clear sight of the open goal. Fortunately Johny Evans was at the right place to divert his shot to safety, which preserved the lead. Angel Di Maria scored on his home debut, curling a free kick past Robert Green, the former City keeper who was present at their goal when Micheal Owen toe poked that 96th minute winner. United went into half time with a 3-0 lead, with the game as good as won against a staggeringly poor side.

The second half saw the introduction of United’s new number 9, Radamal Falcao in place of Juan Mata, but only after he scored United’s 4th and final goal of the match. By any standards, it was a stroll in the park for United against a staggeringly poor QPR side. At times QPR’s resistance was next to none, but those who saw the way their players celebrated with the City team when they won the League on goal difference would not mind that. No united fan in his right sense of mind would think of QPR as the toughest opponents to come to Old Trafford this season, but there were noticeable differences in terms of power, passion and precision compared to whatever United dished out last season.

26 years ago Sir Alex Ferguson took charge of Manchester United and promptly lost his first match against Oxford City 2-0. His first victory came with a 1-0 win over, none other than, QPR. Louis Van Gaal will enjoy that similarity but he was anything but bullish while assessing the performance of the team. He rightly pointed out that improvements are still required for this to provide this kind of performances week in and week out.  David Moyes was dismissed only 6 months ago, but his actual death bell rang in the last summer, when Ed Woodward failed to land quality signings for him, of which the reasons are various. This time, it is fair to say that, he compensated for that. He first delivered his now famous “watch this space” dialogue and then proceeded to spend 150 odd millions of pounds on Daley Blind, Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo, Radamal Falcao and Ander Herrera. History shows that, given the right resources, Van Gaal invariably achieves results. Woodward has kept his promise and brought a fleet of world class talent to Old Trafford. Over to you Louis Van Gaal, it is time to deliver.