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Louis van Gaal Must Make Old Trafford a Fortress Again


Old Trafford. It is a name that conjures many memories, most of which, given over two decades of unparalleled success, are happy ones. It is also a name that, during the last quarter of a century, has struck fear into the hearts of those who have visited it, for it had become a fortress; more often than not, the ‘Home of the Champions.’

Now, after yet another dismal defeat within its walls, that fortress lies in ruins. Now, the likes of Swansea City can not just win for a second time in eight months there, but do so while giving Manchester United a lesson in the art of playing football. Now, this great stadium reverberates with the sound of the wailing and gnashing of teeth of supporters frantic in the face of their beloved clubs shocking decline where, not so long ago, it reverberated with the roar of victory and celebration.

Opposition players no longer dread this place. Indeed, it appears they now relish the opportunity to make off with English football’s biggest scalp while their own fans’ chants of derision drown out the weary groans and nervous murmurings of the home crowd.

Invincibility has been replaced with vulnerability; joy with despair.

At times, last season, it almost felt as though Sir Alex Ferguson’s empire could be heard crumbling around the hapless David Moyes. Now it is the job of Louis van Gaal to rebuild it, brick by brick. The scale of the job was laid bare against Swansea, when United’s players performed as if Moyes, not Van Gaal, was still stood on the side-line.

The new manager spoke of nerves, after the match, suggesting that the players’ confidence had been ‘smashed.’ This was a telling and troubling remark and it was difficult not to sense the echoes of last season within them. The still-raw scars of Moyes’ tenure had been reopened at the first sign of difficulty. Players who, little over a year ago, had been crowned champions of England were no longer able to deal with the slightest hint of adversity.

It will be fascinating to see how the team performs away from Old Trafford. Even under Moyes, United’s record on the road was fairly impressive. The football may still have left a lot to be desired, but United managed to grind out results, at least against the Premier League’s lesser lights.

Sunday’s trip to Sunderland will test Van Gaal’s ability to pick the players up after the bleak result against Swansea. Confidence, that most crucial of ingredients in any football team, needs to be quickly restored, and it may just be that a couple of weeks playing away from the brutal glare of Old Trafford is just what the doctor ordered. Should United return to the Theatre of Dreams for their September 14th clash with Queens Park Rangers having secured six points, particularly if they have done so by playing the kind of football we all saw on their US tour, hopefully with a few more new recruits to freshen up the dressing room, the mood around the club could feel drastically different.

The matter of more new signings is a crucial one. Van Gaal must have experienced a severe sinking feeling as he watched his first competitive game in charge. The lack of dynamism was stark, as were the defensive frailties. United fans have been tearing their hair out all summer over the club’s failure to address the gaping holes within the squad, made all the more frustrating when set in the context of European and domestic rivals continuing to recruit talent early and from a position of strength. It is impossible not to feel that a chasm is opening up between United and the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, not to mention European powerhouses such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

It is difficult not to have got sucked into the vortex of doom and gloom that has, once again, engulfed the club since Saturday’s defeat. It is, however, worth bearing in mind that one poor result does not need to become a disaster from which it is impossible to recover. Indeed, the impoverished performance may have served to focus some minds within the United hierarchy.

Furthermore, despite Saturday’s performance being worryingly Moyesian, United have a different manager at the helm now; a manager with a proven record of success at the very highest level. It will take all of Louis van Gaal’s considerable talents to restore Manchester United to the upper echelons of English and European football but, provided he gets the backing he requires, United fans should have every confidence that he can do so.

His first job, and one that could make or break his time at the club, is to rebuild the ‘smashed’ confidence of his players and, somehow, restore Old Trafford into the fortress that it should be.



About Paul Gunning

Paul is a United fan who writes for Sabotage Times. Follow @PaulGunning1 on Twitter.

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  1. Kris Okechukwu says:

    It is a shame that everything that happens here is woodward. He beats chelski to shaw which left maureen moaning. He missed herrera cos of moyes but got him a year later that nobody knew until 48hrs for d deal to b completed. He had deal in place for kross, LVG came in and said wait let me access d squad. Barely 10 days after d tour he got u Rojo which is LVG choice.
    I want to ask if Ed should sign players against d wish of d coach? Instead of paying 24m for rojo, he paid 16m plus 5.8m nani wage and people still call for his head. A good season will only increase his value and also he freed a space in the squad.
    I believe like d herrera deal, nobody knows what is going on behind d scene. Ed has spent lots of money on fellaini, mata, shaw and still people say he only brings in but don’t spend.

  2. OpikBidin says:

    I think the problem is more of the coach, SAF-Moyes-LVG assessing players and buying what we actually don’t need. If I could, I would substitute the money we pay for RVP and Mata for a great DM.

  3. OpikBidin says:


    This is the answer for your question on Nani: rather than paying 24 milion on Rojo, it’s better to pay 16 milion and loan Nani there paying 5.8 million (CMIIW) of his wages.

  4. OpikBidin says:

    I don’t get the negativity over this part of the deal really. Some people are acting like we could have just bought him for £16 million on its own but we decided to throw in Nani for a year just for a laugh. From what I’ve read ( it sounds like we offered £16 million but Sporting were holding out partly because they wanted something closer to his buyout, £24 million, and partly due to annoyance at their co-owner Doyen.

    So to sweeten the deal we throw in Nani for a year loan which effectively adds an extra £4.8 million to the deal with the added bonus for Sporting that there is no way Doyen can benefit from it, which ultimately finally seals a deal apparently in the making for months. Works for both sides in my opinion because in reality its £4.8 million we were going to lose anyway if Nani had yet another season of providing virtually no value for the money he is payed. Which seemed likely given his complete stagnation the past couple of years and his pretty dire pre-season.

    Could even turn out to be a fantastic move if he finally rediscovers his form back at his first club where, seemingly, he’s somewhat idolised and playing in a league more conducive to players such as himself. We might finally be able to convince a club that he’s worth his wages, maybe even a decent transfer fee too, or slightly less likely but he could earn a place in our team again.

  5. Marko Maric says:

    Scholes said everything…

    “What do they need? Five players. Five proper players who can hit the ground running and turn round a situation that looks desperate,” he continued.

    “Let me be clear: I am sick of having to criticise the club which I gave my life to as a footballer. But United need to arrest their decline.”

    So, we dont neeed 2-3 players, but 5. And not 5 squad players. I like that he talks and he dont talk much, but talk right

  6. scholes18 says:

    man utd is facing a huge problem which has many underlying complexities

    -) are players genuinely willing to come and play for a club which is not in champions league
    -) do players only run for money? sanchez went to arsenal apparently due to location of the club and our neighbours have best players of the world. unless climate (not weather) is different at etihaad than OT, something does not add up
    -) are we genuinely trying to sign players with right approach and professional outlook? i for one always think that screw RM is a big club, perez is an excellent negotiator.
    -) we pride ourselves in makers of future stars; just one year of fluctuating result and we are forgetting all what as a club, we stood for. how are we different from others then?
    -) are our current crop of players really that awful? remember ronaldo was once a rookie too and so was vidic
    -) is their more to our club than what meets the eye? are we financially strong? are glazers that bad? is woodward competent? has LVG still got it?

    why i have not chosen not to answer these questions is because every body here only has theories as a disguise of answers. some would quote a paper’s story to answer these questions and some will completely deny the authenticity of the same paper.

    i have only one thing to say like the great scholes, i have also grown tired of continuous surrounding of negativity around my club. seasons are not won in first week of august and just because we gave moyes time does not mean LVG will be bereft of it.

  7. mjc021278 says:

    Once again Scholes says how he sees it and what anyone on here with honesty recognises. We are in a ‘desperate’ situation and we need ’5 players’ with the quality to be drafted straight away into the starting 11 for us to have any chance of halting our decline.

    He is the ONLY one with the honesty and heart associated with the club who has broken free of the party line guff of saying things will take time and the problem isn’t all that big nonsense.

    Inaction and reduced ambition has pretty much written off this season. So we wait until next summers window to see see if the manager, whoever that may be, addresses the issues with the urgency that it deserves. Until then we’ll limp on.

    Roll back the clock and remember the outrage when Moyes said we need to ‘aspire’ to be like city? There was absolute outrage on here. If only that could be the case now as all we can aspire to be like is and Everton, spurs or Newcastle. Oh dear.

  8. The_red_devils says:

    Rvp + cash = di maria
    may sound crazy but good deal imo.
    benatia, de jong both available.

    Januzaj….mata….di maria
    …… jong….herrera………..
    Shaw benatia jones rafael

  9. mjc021278 says:


    So you’d sacrifice the single world class player we have in RVP, a player whose goals drove us to number 20 in a way Rooney has never been able to live up to or produce as the main man? Add to this the fact that Rooney has been on the decline for 2 or 3 seasons and also combined with the very likely possibility that Hernandez will leave. It doesn’t leave us with a whole lot?

  10. samuel - united WE stand says:

    Van persie has had 2 good seasons.. one at arsenal, a club irrelevant to united and therefore his contributions there irrelevant and one good season at united.. injury prone and getting past his peak years so actually, if anyone is likely going to descend into decline, it will be van persie, united certainly bought him to land a title.. Records show rooney has more than produced up top.. We must deal with facts rather than sentimental nonesense to cover up reality.. rooney has contributed far more to the premier league and to united than van persie could even imagine.. it’s one thing to despise him, it’s another to be in denial with claims of him not being able to lead the line despite goals and assists consistently disregarding that view..

  11. Dsd Wynberg says:

    maybe United must should create a Haka like the All Black rugby tream, as a means to intimidate opponents. because nobody fears us any longer even at OT . we’ve become ‘knock around’ guys in our own backyards :(

  12. mjc021278 says:

    You’re right, Rooney can do a job to a decent level and at one time 4 or 5 years ago he played with an intensity and speed that saw comparisons with the likes of Ronaldo and Messi not being laughed out of hand. Now, while they have progressed and achieved everything their potential suggested, Rooney has stagnated and become a player that for far too long now has only been content to play within his comfort zone.

  13. The_red_devils says:

    Rvp is a great player, but if we are to play 1 striker system, one of them has to be sacrificed, and since rooney is new captain, it won’t be him.
    Rooney never produced as main man? He scored 34 goals each in 2 seasons he played as main striker and is soon to be top scorer at both club and country.

  14. mjc021278 says:

    The years when Rooney was still dynamic and played with a verve and intensity predates the 2 good seasons you identify RVP having and while RVP is having injuries at an increased and frustrating regularity, Rooney is clearly the player on the way down.

  15. mjc021278 says:

    Rooney has clearly provided goals with consistency, to deny this would be foolish. What I’m trying to say is does anyone believe that the Rooney now is in any way the same dynamic player of 4 or 5 seasons ago? The Rooney now wouldn’t have been a mainstay in that vastly superior squad to the one now. It’s just another example of us settling for less and of standards dropping.

  16. Paschal Agwunobi says:

    Looks like balotelli is heading to looserfools, they truly deserve each other. Lol

  17. Paschal Agwunobi says:

    Yeaaaa, this is the best news I’ve heard so far. Di maria wants out of bernabau. C’mmon woody…go get him. What are you still waiting for??? That’s our no.7 out there.If woody gets him, we will forgive him of every transfer blunder he’s ever done. Move quickly.

  18. trevor knightsmith says:


    Don’t underestimate Balotelli, I think he”l do well at Liverpool (Unfortunately) , I also think he would do well at Untied.

    But we will see.

  19. Tommy says:


    We need a chief exec who knows about football, not a dirextor of football, as Paddy Crerand recently said on MUTV, “The director of football should be the manager”


    It doesnt matter if we got a lower price for loaning out Nani for free, their is no way any professional footballer should play for another team without paying a wage, its another one in a long line of embaressing moments from Woody.


    United would have signed Rojo, its just very embaressing paying someone a wage for them to play for someone else, only Woody would do that

    @samuel – united WE stand

    3 seasons Rooney has been the main man at United, first year United came 2nd to chelsea, 2nd time United came 2nd to city, 3rd year United conme 7th, is their a pattern? Rooney needs to play the supporting cast rather be the main man, when he played 2nd fiddle to Ronaldo we won the league, when he played 2nd fiddle to Berbatov, we won the title, when he played 2nd fiddle to RVP, we won the league!!!!!

    @Paschal Agwunobi

    United need another centre half and a couple of midfioelders before we go for a player who would not fit LVG 352 formation.

  20. Teezed says:

    As much as i despise the glazers,it really annoys me when people say theres no money to spend!

    are u guys on fucking crack?

    the money is obviously there, we overspent on shaw,overspent on herrera and overspent on rojo…that means theres at least an 20 mill overboard.

    the money is there to be spent, its just that the right positions are not being addressed . it is clear that ed woodward has fucked up a few deals, and some big players dont want to come.

    We need at least 2 more players, benatia and de jong would do me perfectly. de jong would be a beast for us.

    I also wish ppl would stop going on about di maria. it wont all. another vidal saga..another pipe dream. we need to get on our skates to get benatia as bayern are sniffing offer from them and we can forget him. I also wouldnt mind vlaar as an emergency option,he knows LVG and would be better than anything than we have…at least untill jan anyway.we missed out big time on marquinhos last year and varane a few yrs back. Cant beleive we also let garay move to russia.

  21. Teezed says:

    Garay absolutely killed it in the world cup. Best defensive team were argentina in the whole tourno. I also wouldve taken de vreij at a canter had i known we would get in this situation.Hes twice the player smalling and jones are. very composed and assured. Will be at a top club in a few yrs mark my words.


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