United v Swansea: van Gaal faces injury crisis

August 16, 2014 Tags: , Matches 17 comments
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First game of the season, first injury crisis to overcome. New campaign, new manager, same old problems. Is it something in the Carrington water? Louis van Gaal has been in the top job barely two months, but he takes Manchester United into the season’s opener against Swansea City with nine players out of action. Given the paucity of options available, it is a headache for which the Dutchman has few remedies. This was supposed to be the bright new dawn.

Injuries mean that Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw, Jonny Evans, Danny Welbeck, Anderson and Sam Johnstone sit out the Swans’ visit to Old Trafford on Saturday. Robin van Persie, Adnan Januzaj and Marouane Fellaini remain in a fitness-building phase after this summer’s World Cup. It means that van Gaal will hand a début to at least one promising youngster, perhaps two, in Tyler Blackett and Reece James. So much for the promised summer of transfer market activity.

Still, six victories in as many matches during pre-season has drilled confidence into the Dutchman’s squad. It was badly needed after United’s worst campaign in a quarter century under David Moyes. The Scot’s sacking brought to an end one of the most incredulous appointments of United’s rich history. van Gaal’s should be the beginning of something so much better.

Yet, logic – and limited resources – dictates that United’s climb back to the top is one of slow progress. Or at least one in which supporters may have to be realistic about the challenges ahead this season. Not least with executive vice chairman Ed Woodward having failed to secure the players that his perpetual briefing suggests will flow through Old Trafford’s doors.

van Gaal remains realistic though, at one in believing that his squad is “below top quality” and yet prepared to proffer his players an opportunity to impress.

“I cannot change everything, I have to adapt to the culture,” said van Gaal in his first pre-match press conference at Carrington on Friday.

“It’s a process and we have to make steps. Sometimes you fall and you have to make another big step. That’s the process but you are not champion in October. You are champion in May. I have another philosophy. I have another way of dealing with players to normal coaches. I’m not concerned where we might be and I’ve said that in my meetings with Woodward and the Glazers. I am very confident. I am not nervous.”

On the pitch van Gaal will employ a makeshift defence in his now preferred 3-4-1-2 formation. With Evans on the sidelines, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and debutant Blackett will form an unlikely back three, with two from Rafael da Silva, Ashley Young and James on the flanks.

Elsewhere the Dutchman’s preferred team is yet to fully take shape, although Ander Herrera will make a competitive début for the club, presumably alongside Darren Fletcher in central midfield. Captain Wayne Rooney should partner Javier Hernandez up front, with Juan Mata in his preferred role at number 10.

“Sam Johnstone – the goalkeeper. Antonio Valencia, Shaw and Evans – three defenders. Welbeck. I believe that is it,” said van Gaal of his injury list.

“We have analysed Shaw and it is difficult to lay a finger on it. It is difficult to look for the solution but there are a lot of reasons. After the World Cup, all the players are coming back at different moments and it is very difficult to train. We have the travel, jet-lag and a lot of matches in 14 days. Another reason is the amount of training sessions but we are doing half of what I have done with the other clubs so I cannot assume we have done that wrong.

“I am very confident and I am not nervous. We have players injured and I am not nervous. We have beaten them all until now but tomorrow is the match that counts.”

van Gaal has time, of course, and the Dutchman begins the season with a significant bank of credit, earned for the positive way in which United approached pre-season games in the United States. Possession football, an attacking philosophy and victories buy time even if United plays out the season looking up to rivals from Manchester and the capital.

Not that old hands tend towards that circumspect narrative. This is, after all, United, where trophies abound and negativity, in part, drove Moyes out of a job.

“We’re out to win the league,” claims vice captain Fletcher.

“You start every season at Manchester United with the aim of winning the league. I don’t think this club should ever fall into the trap of being satisfied with finishing in the top four. That’s not the Manchester United I know. You play football to win trophies at this club. It’s a dangerous mindset to be getting into if you start thinking you’d be happy to get into the top four and everybody around the squad is thinking about winning the league.”

Even Rooney, one of Moyes’ favoured sons, has quickly readjusted to the United way. Success may well be qualification for Europe, but it is a truth that gains only tacit acceptance in van Gaal’s camp. In public United’s confidence has been restored.

“It has to be better,” said the 28-year-old. “There are no two ways about it. We have to improve a lot on last year. We know that as a team and we have been working hard to make sure we’re going to get the right results. We are not a club who will settle for finishing in Europe. We’re a club that wants to win trophies and for us it’s only a good season if you do that.”

Manchester United v Swansea City

The Swans arrive after a traumatic 2013/14 campaign in which Michael Laudrup was dismissed to leave rookie Garry Monk in charge. The 35-year-old former central defender spent a decade at the club, much of it in the lower reaches of the Football League, before the Dane’s sacking brought a first coaching job. The role has been made permanent following an interim spell last season.

Swansea lost to Moyes’ United 4-1 on the opening day last season, but seek a stronger start to the new campaign, albeit one in which expectation is set at survival. After all there has been considerable loss of talent over the summer, with Ben Davies and Michel Vorm moving to Tottenham Hotspur, Chico and Pablo Hernandez to Qatar, and Michu to Napoli, albeit on loan.

Still, Monk has secured the signatures of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jefferson Montero, Lukasz Fabianski and the exciting forward Bafetimbi Gomis. The latter may yet be a replacement for in-demand Wilfried Bony.

Whatever the challenges, Monk talks a good game. His team may need the confidence despite United’s lengthy injury list.

“All of the focus is on them and that suits us fine,” he said. “Whenever you go there you know it is going to be tough because of the quality they have. They have had a very positive pre-season, but we have had a very good week’s training and we’ll be positive.

“Everyone is beatable in this league. On any given day, if things drop right and you’re on the top of your game, we can beat the big clubs and we’ve proved that already. We know it will be difficult but we don’t fear them – we see it as a challenge.”

It is a challenge for van Gaal too. Just one in which half a term remains on the sidelines.

United (3-4-1-2): de Gea; Smalling, Jones, Blackett; Young, Herrera, Fletcher, James; Mata; Rooney, Hernández.
Swansea (4-3-3): Fabianski; Rangel, Bartley, Williams, Taylor; Sigurdsson, Shelvey, Montero; Routledge, Bony, Gomis

Subs from
United: Amos, Lindegaard, Evans, Januzaj, Nani, Powell, Zaha, Cleverley, Kagawa, Fellaini, Da Silva, Keane, Thorpe, Petrucci, Varela.
Swansea: Cornell, Tremmel, Amat, Tate, Tiendalli, Cañas, Obeng, Richards, King

United 11- Draw 5 – Swansea 7

Referee: Mike Dean
Assistants: S Bennett, D England
Fourth Official: M Oliver

United 3 – 1 Swansea

£1 bet club
Wayne Rooney & 3-1 @ 25/1


Dayus D red - August 16, 2014 Reply

I just hope LVG is not too over confident because of his past achivements. Here is a guy who has come out to say the team is not balance yet he has done nothing to correct it. I also hope he wouldn’t find out late at his cost that the BPL is very unforgiven. By the way i haven’t heard anyone complaining about LVG’s training method that has left 9 first team players injured. Moyes was slagged off for this same thing last term. Just thinking…., Good luck to the guys. May the season brings us plenty on joy.

thatjamesboy - August 16, 2014 Reply


the real deal - August 16, 2014 Reply

We’ve got more problems than last season. The team is much weaker in quality. Bookmakers are predicting a 6th place finish, unless we buy more players.

the real deal - August 16, 2014 Reply

Look at this team that is on the field. If Moyes would have put out a team like this, fans would have wanted him fired. After 24 minutes, Jessie Lingard has already gone off injured. More injury problems and no quality replacements for those positions. van Gaal said yesterday that he is not interested in anymore players, he wants to have a good look at the players that he already has. So there you go, another disappointing season lies ahead.

Dayus D red - August 16, 2014 Reply

I spoke so soon. LVG must act now or face the same consiquences Moyes face. Time is running out.

the real deal - August 16, 2014 Reply

Yes, I am just reading van Gaal interview with the Guardian and he is now saying he needs quality players. He said players cannot think on the field. This is a point I brought up before. Managers like Pelligrini, Guardiola and Mourinho, they made it clear that they only buy intelligent players, thats why the players they buy come with a high price tag. If a player does not have a good educational background, they do not buy these kind of players who are just skillful but make bad decisions on the field. van Gaal is saying this is the problem with the players we have now, so it is going to interesting to see if there is going to be a real push to bring in new players before the deadline. We just cannot continue on with this lame squad. They are like a race horse with one leg.

Denton Davey - August 17, 2014 Reply

“They are like a race horse with one leg.”

Let’s continue beating that dead horse.

The problem is – and has been for a long while – the lack of quality in the midfield and the lack of quantity in the preferred formation: a back three, two wing-backs, two central midfielders, one guy in-the-hole, and two strikers.

In a very real sense, addressing the first issue with shifting MrJones to right-sided wing-back and having Luke Shaw on the left would go some way to solving the first problem although keeping cart-horses like MC16 and DarrenFletcherinho (whose “football genius” days are long -gone) is no solution. Moreover, OF COURSE, shifting MrJones out of the central defensive unit would seriously undermine it in its present, under-manned state.

My own view on this matter hasn’t changed for a while – buy ConcreteRon and NastyNigel and Danny Blind. I understand that these guys are most-assuredly NOT “world-class” quality. They are solid, journeymen who would be stop-gaps. But right now the UTD squad has gaps that have to be stopped !

These three would probably cost about the same amount as one (un-gettable) “world class” player. I don’t think of them as “panic buys”, either. They need to be understood as a method of patching-up a “broken squad”.

On the tv-feed I was watching, one of the GlazerBoyz was shown in a state of shock. He, too, was appalled by the dross on show. Was that the dawning realization that all those clauses in the sponsorship deals might just wash away a shit-load of money ?

11losers - August 17, 2014 Reply

Do there we go again.

Wasted preseason – we tested the formation that we wont ne able to use in the league. We just got raped by a depleted team at Home, same team we beat lasy year away under management of a mediocre coach.
Now we know the problem lies within the team and players. If LVG cannot mąkę them win at Home than that is It. The United way is fucking dead and buried.
We just turned into Liverpool, and that breaks my hart.

the real deal - August 17, 2014 Reply

I read now that they are in a desperate mood to buy Benatia, Rojo, Blind and Douglas Costa from Shaktaar. And now Depay is saying he has word that they are looking at him! They have already put in Seems to me they are in some kind of panic mode. I have to blame van Gaal because he kept saying he was not interested in buying players until he got a good look at the players that he already has. Now we’ve lost to Swansea and here it is two weeks before deadline and now van Gaal is crying out that he needs new players. Something really wrong with this picture! Monaco and Arsenal are trying to snatch Costa, Bayern Munich are going after Benatia and Chelsea want Cuadrado. So where at this late in the transfer window are we going to find quality players?

the real deal - August 17, 2014 Reply

Woodward is not a good business man.
All Man Utd targets right now are all available. I watched Newcastle today, the commentator said they bought 9 new players this season. To get your targets, if a club tells you they want 20 million for a player, you give them 30 million for the player. Thats how all the big clubs get their targets one time. Woodward likes to go in and try to negociate to bring the price down, therefore we lose out. And there lies the problem why we don’t get our targets.

Subterranean Steve - August 18, 2014 Reply

Nine new players and Newcastle still lost. Your point?

Subterranean Steve - August 19, 2014 Reply

It’s easy to buy transfer targets on time if you have the modest ambitions of Newcaste. Nine new players in at once reflects their scattergun approach to transfers. Buy plenty and then hope a few of them come good and help fulfil those modest ambitions.

United has much loftier ambitions and needs to buy in real quality. That doesn’t come easily. There are plenty of players on the market but the best are sought after, and competed for, by the top clubs.

Certainly Woodward needs to get on with the job and go for the best available, but it has to be quality over quantity.

Subterranean Steve - August 18, 2014 Reply

The pre-season success, whilst it didn’t exactly herald a new dawn, gave us a glimmer of light on the horizon. How false that dawn appears to have been.

Regardless of the system in place, the performances of the players and the outcome of the Swansea match mirrored so many of last season’s home disappointments.

United lack players with leadership and football savviness. I’m not talking about the captain and his role. I’m talking about, the ability to read a game; to assess the situation and adapt accordingly whilst still competing in the heat of battle; to give worthwhile support to others and to drive them on.

Too many players have a one-dimensional approach to their role and do not use what footballing brainpower they have to adapt to the situation. When things are not working out you can see them resorting to their own predictable and often limited individual patterns of play. Hence, we get cries of “same old, same old’.

Certainly there is a crisis of confidence, but it’s more than that. It’s a lack of fighting spirit, a bond of togetherness in adversity that has been the hallmark of successful United teams. That never-say-die spirit that spawned the importance of ‘Fergie time’ is in short supply.

Busby and Ferguson blended players of superstar quality with players of decent ability to form great teams. Those teams included players such as Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona and Paul Scholes. However, also in those teams were players like Mark Jones, Bill Foulkes, Steve Bruce and Gary Neville. The latter group were not the most gifted of players but nonetheless played vital parts in their teams’ success. Their commitment to the cause was beyond question.

There is plenty for van Gaal to concern himself with but it’s not just a matter of spending wadloads of cash. Though new signings are definitely needed, he has to get inside the heads of the players and seek out or instill those football savvy and never-say-die qualities.

Let’s hope the Dutch Master can create, if not exactly a work of art, certainly a team that plays with skill and inventiveness mixed with not a little pride and passion.

John - August 18, 2014 Reply

When are United going to learn that both Jones and Smalling are incompetent defenders?

Ship these two jokers out and get two proper defenders who can defend !!!

applejack - August 18, 2014 Reply

I understand Tyler Blackett was behind Michael Keane and Tom Thorpe in the ratings and pulled up no trees at Birmingham on loan yet he’s touted as a prospect. Ferdinand and Vidic left ages ago. So too Evra. United’s boast that they are determined to avoid last year’s fiasco in the transfer window doesn’t bear scrutiny I’m afraid, and behind it all lurks the dark spectre of Glaser-nomics and our penny-pinching owners. Woodward may or may not be incompetent, but he got his job, and keeps it, because he’s Avi’s representative on earth [just like Gill, another tame Englishman and paper tiger, was the old man’s]. It won’t end well.

Sorry but ‘incredulous’? People incredulous at Moyes appointment found it incredible [if you take my meaning]. I suppose we will just have to accept drowning in a sea of American linguistic perversions. The chavs lap them up, and they are by far the most important people in the country nowadays.

@Subterranean Steve – the point is one of securing transfer targets on time, not that of a middle-ranking club with modest ambitions losing to the Champions and a club with arguably one of the best squads in Europe let alone this country.

Subterranean Steve - August 18, 2014 Reply

Thank goodness we were on time to buy Fellaini last year.

Subterranean Steve - August 19, 2014 Reply

It’s easy to buy transfer targets on time if you have the modest ambitions of Newcaste. Nine new players in at once reflects their scattergun approach to transfers. Buy plenty e.g. nine and then hope a few of them come good and help fulfil those modest ambitions.

United has much loftier ambitions and needs to buy in real quality. That doesn’t come easily. There are plenty of players on the market but the best are sought after, and competed for, by the top clubs.

Certainly Woodward needs to get on with the job and go for the best available, but it has to be quality over quantity.

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