United must win Guardiola sweepstakes

December 18, 2015 Tags: , , , , Reads 11 comments
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Louis van Gaal has undertaken ‘projects’ at some of the biggest clubs in the world. His popularity is certainly not universal at any of them, but there’s no doubt that the Dutchman left his mark at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester United. There’s no denying Van Gaal has provided the foundations on which some of those clubs stand today.

Pep Guardiola has followed in Van Gaal’s footsteps, and indeed improved on them, in Catalunya and Bavaria. Could lightning strike a third time in Manchester? It certainly should.

With Guardiola set to announce his plans for 2016 and beyond next week, rumours abound as to where the Spaniard will set sail next. England is the consensus, with the Manchester clubs seemingly favourites despite Jose Mourinho’s dismissal at Chelsea this week.

Questions remain, of course. Would Pep’s style adapt to English football; could he revolutionise the game in the Premier League as he has in Spain and Germany?

Yet, there’s the common misconception that Guardiola shares Van Gaal’s love of possession and, frankly, possession for the sake of it. Certainly, passing teams to death is the perception that supporters and analysts have gained when watching United this season. Leading the league in sideways pass percentage, backwards pass percentage and, of course, possession itself, United dominates the ball, but not the league table. In truth, the man who is leading Munich to another Bundesliga title shares little of that ideal.

“I loathe all that passing for the sake of it,” he said last year. “All that tiki-taka. It’s so much rubbish and has no purpose. You have to pass the ball with a clear intention, with the aim of making it into the opposition’s goal.

“It’s not about passing for the sake of it. Don’t believe what people say. Barça didn’t do tiki-taka! It’s completely made up! Don’t believe a word of it!”

Guardiola’s Catalan side was a ruthless attacking outfit whose effortless possession of the ball cut up almost every opponent. Rather than Van Gaal’s sometimes pedestrian passing, the Spaniard’s version of the Blaugrana was arguably the best side of the modern era. Barça moved the ball quickly –  United the victim in two breathtaking displays in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals.

“In all team sports, the secret is to overload one side of the pitch so that the opponent must tilt its own defence to cope,” Pep explained. “You overload on one side and draw them in so that they leave the other side weak. And when we’ve done all that, we attack and score from the other side.

“That’s why you have to pass the ball, but only if you’re doing it with a clear intention. It’s only to overload the opponent, to draw them in and then to hit them with the sucker punch. That’s what our game needs to be. Nothing to do with tiki-taka.”

In May of 2011 Guardiola sat in the stands watching United in the Champions League Semi-Finals. Weeks later his side would destroy the Red Devils in the final.

“I like this atmosphere. I could see myself coaching here one day,” he told friend Manuel Estiarte as he watched United sweep aside Schalke. The sentiment was echoed by journalist Graham Hunter this week, one of the more credible sources of news in Spain. Hunter is adamant that Guardiola wants to try his hand managing United after a transfer to Old Trafford fell through late in his playing career.

“If the cards fall his way, his wish is to sample life at Manchester United for a variety of reasons,” said Hunter. “The move didn’t happen but when he’s come back to Manchester subsequently he’s looked at the Old Trafford atmosphere, the legends and he has felt ‘this is right for me’.”

This chips, it seems, could fall United’s way. Unfortunately for those who would like to see Guardiola arrive at United there are many more factors at play, and football is rarely that simple, especially when it comes to the Reds.

Manchester City

The Citizens’ move for Pep has been the “worst kept secret in football” for some time now. That said, with admirers from the rest of England’s giants also in play, perhaps Guardiola’s move to the Etihad is no longer so certain. City has always felt the presence of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain in the management hierarchy gives the club an inside track in the pursuit of their man. The Blues’ unlimited chequebook and star-studded squad has to appeal, and the club has proven in recent times that it has a little more patience with managerial appointments. There’s certainly a strong chance that a deal may already be in place.


Mourinho’s departure from the Blues, with Guardiola’s future set to be announced, could be coincidental or perfectly timed. Chelsea’s admiration is long-standing, with Roman Abramovich rumoured to have dreamt that his side might one day resemble the footballing beauty of Barcelona in Pep’s pomp.

However, the Chelsea job does not offer the stability of others – since 2004 no manager has lasted at the club more than three years, while nine coaches in eight seasons is something of an embarrassing track record.


The north Londoners represent a dark horse in this race. Guardiola’s attractive football, sense of style, and knowledge of culture and history fits well with Arsenal’s proposition. Arsene Wenger’s time at the club is surely winding down, and the Gunners would certainly consider making his retirement date official if it meant landing the Spaniard. Arsenal doesn’t possess the financial clout of other contenders, but it’s a club with a money-making new stadium, while the new Premier League TV deal offers incredible spending power. Guardiola’s probable departure from Munich could have come at the perfect time.


Despite the debate about United’s incumbent manager and playing squad, almost anyone with an opinion on the situation agrees that the club has its share of problems. Rumours about the Dutchman’s future are rife, and there is no doubt that Van Gaal is under serious pressure to deliver results. Goals have dried up and the team is now without a win in the past five games.

Still, the club seems to be standing by the manager and is prepared to back him in the market in January. Yet, a growing section of the fanbase has already turned on Van Gaal and, if rumours are true, so have some in his playing squad.

Players are physically exhausted by the training regime, whilst some feel their talents are stifled by Van Gaal’s tactics. Ed Woodward has briefed that the club is prepared to back him with continued spending, but with every passing result the value of the investment in such bland performances comes into question.

Woodward has also briefed that he believes Guardiola’s future is already determined – one factor, perhaps, why the club is backing Van Gaal so strongly. Yet, with Carlo Ancelotti, Mourinho and potentially Guardiola on the market this summer, the club has some forward thinking to undertake if it is serious about progressing back into the élite.

Guardiola would certainly improve on the foundations the Dutchman has created. The Spaniard’s football would be a vast improvement, while Pep offers the promise of attracting high-calibre players.

Van Gaal’s progress has been slower than expected, albeit through a significant rebuild. But the club would surely be remiss not to consider the future. The right decision isn’t always clear, but to many Guardiola’s capture represents a no brainer.

Van Gaal has been a terrific manager over the past quarter-century; Guardiola is an upgrade.United cannot afford to miss out on his services for a second time.


Craig Leitch - December 18, 2015 Reply

Anyone able to tag Ed Woodward on this?? 😉

NazManUnited - December 18, 2015 Reply

This must a done deal no point playing roulette! Glazers get your credit cards out

Subterranean Steve - December 18, 2015 Reply

Enjoyed your article apart from –

“Van Gaal has been a terrific manager over the past quarter-century.”

Two trophy winning seasons in the last sixteen years does not make van Gaal a ‘terrific manager’ in my book.

He is in fact, yesterday’s man who is living in the past, mainly of the 1990’s, pushing a once successful but now outdated playing style which is failing at United; he doesn’t appear to know what the hell to do about it, except more and more training.

He may have fooled Woodward and co. but the fans have seen through him. He and his brand of football are past their sell-by-dates and he should retire to Portugal asap.

Denton Davey - December 19, 2015 Reply

This comment by Pep is revealing:

“You overload on one side and draw them in so that they leave the other side weak. And when we’ve done all that, we attack and score from the other side.

“That’s why you have to pass the ball, but only if you’re doing it with a clear intention. It’s only to overload the opponent, to draw them in and then to hit them with the sucker punch. That’s what our game needs to be. Nothing to do with tiki-taka.”

It’s hard to do that with the players currently on UTD’s books so I think you’re being a bit unfair – LvG has had two mandates: get into the top-4 and rebuild the team. He’s done both BUT the means to those ends have been gruesome to watch. It seems to me that he’s been hamstrung by the combination of youth and low-quality of the squad. How many of UTD’s players would make it into the 2008 double team – maybe DDG, but that’s it. This quality-gap is extraordinary and, in fairness I think, it’s to LvG’s credit that he has been able to get this rag-tag group into fourth-place; it’s not to his credit that his gruesome style ending up biting him in the arse in the CL.

The quotes from today’s presser seem to suggest that LvG is keenly aware that he has to get results which means he has to be more bold and less rigid in his game-planning. Jo$e’s firing – and the long shadow of Pep – have obviously upped the pressure on LvG.

LvG also said something very interesting about Leicester’s win over the RentBoyz – “how many chances did they have – and yet they scored two goals”. As much as you or I or almost any other UTD fan complains about the team’s turgid approach it remains a fact that the quality of finishing from ALL of the forwards has been appalling.

By my count, the boy wonder – Lingard – missed five gilt-edged chances in the three matches before he went off injured against Bournemouth and even Anthony Martial – he of one goal in the past ten matches – had the keeper at his mercy against Bournemouth and scuffed his shot wide.

As bad as the finishing has been, the defending against set-pieces was directly responsible for two of the three goals in the loss to Wolfsburg and both goals in the loss at Bournemouth. And not one of those goals was the direct responsibility of “kids” – Smalling and Carrick lost Naldo in the penalty box for his two goals; DDG mis-judged a corner; and Daley Blind lost Josh King from another corner. This would be comedy gold if the opposition put four goals on a plate for TheLads in back-to-back matches.

To what extent are these attacking and defending errors the “fault” of the manager ? Are these players exempt from blame ? Would a different manager get better concentration from these defenders, all of whom are experienced internationals ? To my way of thinking, LvG is caught between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place.

Subterranean Steve - December 19, 2015 Reply

Van Gaal hasn’t rebuilt the team. He has turned over plenty of players and he has completely changed the tactics. That isn’t rebuilding, It’s changing things to suit his approach.

If there had been any progressive sort of rebuild then United would surely have not gone out of the C.L. at the group stage. PSV and Wolfsburg are very ordinary teams.

Emmyleo balbao - December 18, 2015 Reply

Man u problem is more than LVG,Ed is a no brainer,he’s got nothing upstair about football. The likes of Barca,Real madrich,Bayern executives are great ex-footballer who knows what it takes to be a champion and the passion of the game….. Where the f**k did united got Ed,he doesn’t seems to be concern about the love of the game,we’ve lost the battle in the transfer market to sign reasonable players due to his lack of football knowledge,250m was spend foolishly with the likes of bayern spending little(coman and douglas costa) to steady d ship….Get Ed out,and fire LVG,without this United will rise to crumble

El Mágico Mata - December 19, 2015 Reply

brilliant article nice one pal👌

Pramod - December 19, 2015 Reply

some good articles lately! 👍🏼

Opti - December 19, 2015 Reply

“the club has some forward thinking to undertake if it is serious about progressing back into the élite.”
— What was the LvG hire about and having Giggs his understudy?

The notion that “Pep will fix anything” is a folly. How long has he lasted at any club? He burns out 3-4 years into management of Two-horse-race league leaders, Bayern and Barca. I could have managed Barca during those years and brought trophies… facetious? Perhaps!

Those who say LvG is yesterday’s man, don’t know football. Since Since 2003, he has ushered in new era at Barca and Bayern. He also brought AZ a league title in Holland, which is an amazing feat considering the concentration of football residing in Ajax and PSV. Then there was the 3rd place in 2014’s world cup… hardly yesterday.

Give Pep to City… we’re United and don’t need anyone. Arrogant? Absolutely!

bobbynoble - December 19, 2015 Reply

You need to cut down on the wine gums.

Subterranean Steve - December 21, 2015 Reply

quote – ‘Those who say LvG is yesterday’s man, don’t know football.’

Hold that thought.

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