Man United No Long-Ball Team, Says Van Gaal

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has disagreed with the view of his counterpart Sam Allardyce following Sunday’s draw at Boleyn Ground.

Midfielder Dalley Blind volleyed home a loose ball for a late injury-time equaliser after West Ham had enjoyed the lead for most part of the second period through a Cheikhou Kouyate 49th-minute opener.

Narrating to the best of his ability his own conscious assessment of the proceedings at Upton Park with four A4-sized stats sheets, with which he had entered the press conference room, to back it up; the Dutch boss, 63, refuted the West Ham boss’ claim and countered that most of United’s long passes were sideways, in an attempt to switch play.

“When a colleague of mine is saying this kind of thing then you have to see the data,” Van Gaal retorted immediately the subject was raised.

Louis van Gaal and Sam Allardyce Exchange Pleasantries after Previous Clash at Old Trafford. Image: Man Utd via Getty.
Louis van Gaal and Sam Allardyce Exchange Pleasantries after Previous Clash at Old Trafford. Image: Man Utd via Getty.
“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 strikers.”

The manager took his time to explain United’s game plan in the 1-1 away draw, claiming he had only reverted to a more direct approach when it became obvious a change in tactic was required.

“We are playing ball possession and after 70 minutes (at West Ham) we did not succeed, in spite of many chances in the second half- so 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.

Handing out the sheet of papers, he continued: “I give you these starts. You can copy it and then maybe you can go to Big Sam and he will get a good interpretation.”

Van Gaal was speaking in his pre-match media briefing ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with Burnley. A few of United’s players have been in for the sticks of late, especially summer signings Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria.

Argentine, Di Maria, has struggled to maintain his superlative start to the ongoing campaign following his £60m British record transfer from Real Madrid in September.

The 26-year-old, who turns 27 on Saturday, has scored four goals and provided six assists in all competitions for United but has only scored once in his last 10 appearances- in the game against Yeovil Town over four weeks ago.

That has drawn criticism from football enthusiasts including Daily Mail columnist Jamie Redknapp, who claim Di Maria has been “really poor” for United while comparing the midfielder with Arsenal’s Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez, who has been firing on all cylinder since his £35m switch to the Emirates Stadium from Barcelona in the summer.

However, Van Gaal believes Di Maria’s critics are too quick to hit the panic button and says there is more to come from the player who just last month was named in the Fifa/FIFPro World XI for 2014.

“Di Maria has to adapt to the English rhythm of the game,” Van Gaal told MUTV reporters. “That’s a high standard and the big difference with other countries. He shall do that. I’m convinced of it.”

Wayne Rooney has as well failed to score in 450 minutes of league matches this season but Van Gaal expects his captain and other members of his first team squad to peak in the remaining 14 match days of the season.

“You can always improve,” he insists. “You can never have a perfect match which I have said once before in the press conference. You have to improve and every team has to improve, which is why we are training.

“I am happy with the results but I also think we can still improve, that is also the process we have talked about already from my first day. But we have to improve.”

Only vice-captain Michael Carrick and defender Luke Shaw are ruled out of the Burnley game; the former due to an ankle injury and the latter as a result of a one-game suspension following his sending off for two bookable offences in the weekend.

“But I have to see how the players have recovered from the match against West Ham United- that was a tough game, we had to fight until the end so I have to look and see how they have recovered,” Van Gaal said.