More Evidence of The LVG Effect

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vangaalI watched the replay of our friendly against Inter Milan yesterday (the match actually took place on Tuesday night – I’m being a bit tardy with these reviews) and, yet again, we played a good game.

This time, there weren’t a bucket-load of goals and the match actually ended 0-0 but I think it’s fair to say that we created the better chances and, overall, deserved to win the match on penalties.

Yes, in this “mini-tournament” we’re in, if the match ends a draw then it goes straight to penalties. The winner of the shootout then receives 2 points and the loser gets 1 points which, incidentally, I think is a great little idea but anyway…

It was hard not to watch this penalty shoot-out and not be reminded of our last penalty shoot-out which was in the Capital One Cup semi-final against Sunderland in January of this year.

You will remember that we put in one of the worst series of penalties in the history of the game as we scored just one of our five penalties. To make matters worse, Sunderland’s own series wasn’t much better as they scored just two of their own.

To this day, I don’t know whether it was just a symptom of our general lack of confidence under Moyes or whether the players deliberately did all they could to NOT win anything for Moyes or whether it was because we didn’t fancy City in the Final.

The contrast in this match against Inter was striking as we scored all five penalties and every penalty we took was an unsaveable cracker.

The confidence is flowing again and there can be no question that this squad wants to impress the new manager.

Our next match should provide a real test, though (no pun intended) as we play Real Madrid on Saturday night.

I’ve done it again, though, and I go away on holiday on Saturday night so I’m going to miss it but I’ll be looking out for the score and it really wouldn’t surprise me if we were to win that one, too – I doubt I’d have been saying that in January of this year…

What was also striking about this match was Van Gaal’s reaction to an incident where Tom Cleverly seemed to have been denied a pretty clear-cut penalty.

A few months ago, the cameras would have panned to a manager slumped in his seat, possibly getting up to do his best “moany face” to the fourth official… not Van Gaal.

Van Gaal was tearing a strip off the fourth official and I had to remind myself that this was just a largely meaningless friendly – what he’ll be like if we have a penalty decision go against us in a “proper” match is anyone’s guess but the referees should probably go kitted out in Kevlar.

It was great to see the passion, though and reminded us all once again of just one more thing we’ve been missing at United for the last twelve months.

Looking Good

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rooney-romaI’ve just finished watching the replay of last night’s match against Roma which we won 3-2 and, yet again, I have to say how much better we’re looking already.

To be fair, Roma can probably consider themselves a little unlucky to have lost the game. For long periods of this match, they were the better team and played the better football. Certainly for the first ten minutes or so, I thought we’d be in for a very tough match as Roma came flying out of the blocks to set a pace it looked like we might not be able to deal with.

However, a rocket from Rooney and a sublime bit of Mata magic had us 2-0 up almost out of nowhere.

Rooney’s goal was excellent and like the Rooney of old as he created a bit of space for himself just outside the penalty area before unleashing a reversed shot into the top right-hand corner which gave the keeper no chance.

Minutes later, he played a fifty yard pass which Mata plucked out of the air with one touch before dinking it over the advancing keeper with his second touch.

It was an astonishing piece of skill and whilst some of Rooney’s first touches were heavy (like they were for much of last season), Mata’s touch is spot on and he looks ready to go for the new season.

A few minutes later, the score was 3-0 as we were awarded a penalty which Rooney duly dispatched.

That’s the way it stayed until around the 70th minute and it seemed harsh on Roma who were nowhere near as outclassed as a 3-0 scoreline might suggest.

Obviously wanting to take a good look at all the players in the squad, Van Gaal had started the match with Sam Johnstone in goal but Ben Amos came on for the second half and, as much as I hate to say it, neither keeper really covered themselves in glory here.

Some of Johnstone’s distribution was poor and put our players under unnecessary pressure but Amos will be the one having a few nightmares following this match.

Around the 70th minute, Roma’s Pjanic launched the ball towards our goal from well within his own half and scored.

Beckham did something similar and we’ve been purring over it for twenty years but on this occasion, it really is hard to understand how Amos managed to be beaten from such a distance.

For reasons best known to himself, he was a long way from his goal and was unable to get back in time to prevent the ball from sailing over his outstretched arm and into the net.

With De Gea and Lindegaard our two main goalkeepers, these two keepers really do need to be taking advantage of every opportunity but, on this evidence, Anders and Dave can probably rest easy.

Amos has been with United since he was eleven years old but he’s no longer a young rookie – at 24 years of age, he’s actually older than De Gea.

Anyway, a little while later, Roma were also awarded a penalty which the seemingly ageless Totti converted to make it 3-2 and that’s how it stayed.

It was a win but it could and probably should have been more convincing.

However, Van Gaal once again made a ton of changes and several of the youngsters also got a run out including Jesse Lingard and Will Keane.

Herrera also played the first half but wasn’t as effective against this better opposition as he was against LA Galaxy a few days ago.

What’s most interesting is how Van Gaal is getting players to play in positions they’re not accustomed to playing in.

For example, Ashley Young found himself at left-back in this one and Nani once again found himself in a more central role just behind the strikers.

Van Gaal really does seem to be doing it all his own way and will not have his view of players influenced by how Fergie or Moyes played them in the past.

So… we roll on and next up is Inter Milan. Can LvG make it three from three?

We’re Definitely Back!

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manchester-united_2985002bI’ve just finished watching a replay of our 7-0 demolition of LA Galaxy which took place in the early hours of this morning and I’m smiling from ear to ear.

Impressive though it is, forget the scoreline for a moment. After the turgid mess that Moyes foisted upon us last season, this felt like I was actually watching Manchester United again.

Without wishing to get too carried away with the result of one game, it does look like Van Gaal has come in and got us playing within the space of a few days in a way Moyes could only ever dream of had he managed us for a decade.

This was the United we know and love – fast, one-touch passing, lots of movement, nothing predictable about it whatsoever. The exact opposite of everything we saw from United under Moyes.

I do believe that Van Gaal made ten changes at half-time with the score at 3-0 and the only player to play the whole 90 minutes was our new man Herrera and what a performance he put in.

I lost count of how many penetrating through balls he played which, in itself, is something that we rarely saw last season as much of our attacking play came from wide positions.

If this performance is any indication then we’ve got a star on our hands here. He was excellent.

Van Gaal also showed that he’s not only looking at the established players as he brought on Reece James, Tyler Blackett and Michael Keane to make up three parts of the defence in the second half.

The fact that he had to deploy Darren Fletcher in there to make up the numbers because, in his own words, he “had no more defenders” perhaps points to where Van Gaal will be looking to strengthen before the transfer window closes because I still do feel that we are lacking a top class experienced defender now that Vidic and Rio have both departed.

It might be tempting to look upon this results as “just a friendly” and it was “only against LA Galaxy” but make no mistake about it. LA Galaxy came into this friendly midway through their domestic season and boasting the best defensive record in the MLS so far this season.

Losing 7-0 was never part of their plan here but we were simply irresistible and if this is how Van Gaal can get us playing after a few days in charge, we should be pretty frightening by the time the season gets underway.

Almost as though Van Gaal wanted to let everyone know what a maverick genius of a manager he is, he had the team play the second half without even a recognised striker.

Rooney and Welbeck made the forward two in the first half (and scored all three goals between them with Rooney grabbing two) but they were both taken off at half time and replaced with…? I’m not sure. I suppose Nani was ostensibly the “striker” but the four second half goals were scored by Reece James and Ashley Young.

As already mentioned, there could have been more as time and time again, the excellent Herrera played balls straight through the heart of the LA Galaxy defence and it was just a bit unfortunate that, on occasion, they were slightly overhit – I feel certain that the touch will return after a few pre-season matches under his belt, though.

All in all, this was the perfect start for Louis Van Gaal and I’m already looking forward to the next game with relish… a feeling that I largely lost for much of last season.

We’re Back!

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louis-van-gaal_2983676bFirst of all, apologies to regular visitors to this site for the lack of posts since the end of last season.

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the close-season. The mainstream media go into fantasy overdrive in an attempt to fill the void left by no “proper” football (The World Cup? Meh…) and, as the years have gone by, I’ve found it more and more tedious to read.

I’ve spent much of the summer watching the factual comings and goings at Manchester United without having much of an opinion of them although, in general, I am happy with the transfers both in and out so far.

The biggest thing, of course, is that we now have Van Gaal as our manager and big things are expected from him after the disastrous experiment that was David Moyes.

And it all starts tonight… yes, Manchester United’s pre-season tour kicks off tonight (well, actually, it’s the early hours of tomorrow morning in UK time) as we play LA Galaxy at 4am GMT.

As usual, it will be said that these pre-season matches don’t really matter – that it’s all about the players getting back to fitness and getting their sharpness back for the season “proper” but I wouldn’t be too fooled this time around… last year’s pre-season tour was as bad as the season that was to follow and I think a few of us had tiny alarm bells ringing in our ears as Moyes led our beloved Reds to defeats at the hands of the likes of The Shanghai Miners XI (or whatever they were called).

The match is being screened on MUTV and I’m delighted to see that MUTV is now an HD channel so I’ll be recording that and watching first thing in the morning.

Let’s hope the LVG era gets off to a flyer…