Oh Louis. Louis, Louis, Louis.
It was not supposed to be like this. Whatever else you were supposed to be, you were not supposed to go full-Moyes when the going got tough. The football is bad enough, but we could just about live with that (we couldn’t) if it wasn’t for the abject nonsense you have begun to spout.
Here at TOP FIVE Towers, we take our task very seriously. And today, it is our solemn responsibility to create a repository of the absolute guff Louis van Gaal has been spouting of late. Oh, things which were genuinely amusing do not qualify, hence a certain high-profile description of where hair pulling is acceptable does not make the list. This is only for the stuff that makes you want to pull your own hair out.
Number Five: All the times he said we were good when we were actually terrible.
If you’ll indulge a personal story, I was sat in the press conference after the Aston Villa game. Van Gaal gave his usual spiel about it being difficult to break down well-organised defences. At the time, concentrating on tweeting out quotes, which is what I’m assigned to do there, I didn’t really think about it. I’d heard it so often, it just sounded like white noise.
But afterwards it hit me. By that point in the season, Villa had conceded 65 goals. Sixty-five. Aston Villa 2015/16 are literally one of the worst defences in history. There is absolutely no excuse for struggling against them. Indeed, the goal when it came came because Marcus Rashford had the revolutionary idea of slightly checking his run. It was centre-forward 101, but Villa are so bad it made the youngster look like a Van Basten level genius.
But Van Gaal, of course, praised their well-organised defending. Just like when he said “no one talks about how few chances Sheffield United had.” Or when he said our performance against Norwich was “Fantastic” in the second half.
You could make a top fifty list just out of these. But we won’t.
Number Four: “I can’t say he was the Bastian Schweinsteiger I saw during my Bayern Munich days.”
Schweinsteiger had a pretty terrible game when United lost to Wolfsburg and crashed out of the Champions League, only to spring up on the trampoline of the Europa League in order to then crash into something even more painful when they were beaten by Liverpool.
But after the game, Van Gaal had the temerity to say Schweinsteiger was not the player he had seen during his Bayern days. The really worrying thing about that statement is that Van Gaal thought for a second that when he signed ol’ Basti he was getting the player he’d had at Bayern. What about the intervening five years, Louis? During which time he’d played, you know, a lot of games and, you know, got older, and you know had a massive battle with a serious long-term injury? “This tree is not the same tree I planted five years ago, it is much bigger.” “This milk is not the same milk I put into the fridge five weeks ago, it is much more solid.”
Number Three: “My captain shall always play.”
Well, if you don’t already want to throw soft toys at Van Gaal as he passes by in order to express your frustration, perhaps this will help.
“My captain shall always play.”
But why, Louis? Why sacrifice the flexibility of tactical approaches and personnel changes that occasionally leaving out a declining Wayne Rooney would have offered you? Why mortgage your future on a once-great-now-good-with-great-moments-and-sometimes-extended-patches-of-terrible-form footballer like Wayne Rooney? No one made you. You didn’t have to do it.
“My captain shall always play” has a certain ring of epic tragedy to it, like the band playing as the Titanic sank, or a noble leader striding out to their certain doom in spite of the march of an overwhelming force against them. “My captain shall always play” regardless of hail, thunder, snow, or the occasional outburst of a terrible, terrible first touch. “My captain shall always play” no matter what tangled web of a formation I have to concoct to make it work, no matter who I have to play out of position or drop, not matter whose confidence I have to destroy.
“My captain shall always play.”
Number Two: “When you see the facts we went further in the Capital One Cup.”
AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH. No amount of capital As could truly encapsulate the sheer, maddening, contrary, nonsensical absolute total and utter garbageness of that statement.
We beat a bunch of Ispwich Town reserve players. We then failed to beat Middlesbrough, in a terrible game which culminated in one of the worst penalty shoot-outs in history. This is not a meaningful measure of progress. This is not even a meaningless measure of progress. It is not a measure of progress at all.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH. Still not enough.
NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET
Picture the scene. A year ago and United have gone slightly off the boil again but after nearly a season of being promised a click, a click finally happened and we beat City, Liverpool and Spurs while playing superb football.
Van Gaal gives a truly remarkable speech at the end of year awards do. In among his infamous instruction to applaud the saxophone player, he claimed that the points difference between us and Chelsea was a little flattering to them and that in reality we were “VERY CLOSE” to challenging for the title.
Flash forward a year later and he has the gall, the audacity, the sheer total-lack-of-self-awareness to claim that part of the problem for United this season has been that expectations are too high.
WHOSE FAULT IS THAT? First of all, the club never stops going on about being the biggest in the world. Something Van Gaal himself said at his first press conference in charge. Where, incidentally, he also said “There’s a lot of expectation but it’s also a great challenge because of that.”
So how about living up to the expectation, rather than making out the fans—who incidentally would tolerate the same set of results with broad grins on their faces if only the football wasn’t so interminably dull and existentially draining to watch—should be grateful for getting an extra round in the Capital One Cup?
Or is that too much of a challenge?