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In the Land of the Diva, Van Gaal is King

 Posted by on July 24, 2014 at 10:52 am  Blogs/Media
Jul 242014

Manchester United 7-0 Los Angeles Galaxy
76481830 herrera getty In the Land of the Diva, Van Gaal is King   Ten minutes after his Manchester United team had completely dismantled the L.A. Galaxy 7-0 at the Rose Bowl, Louis van Gaal was already running his mouth. A happy debut? Sure, but LVG wanted to bitch. Bitch about the traffic from Bevely Hills to Pasadena. Bitch about the club being too big. Bitch about Manchester United’s commercial demands impacting on his preparation. Bitch about having “too many number 10s.” Bitch about the heat and smog. Bitch! Bitch! Bitch! Never mind Jose Mourinho. LVG is Mourinho’s Maestro. The Iron Tulip may not have the Special One’s swarthy good looks and Ladbroke’s may be taking bets on whether it’s his real hair or a toupé, but be reassured, Louis Van Gaal knows exactly what he’s doing and he will be the star!!!

It was a sea of red at the Rose Bowl. A crowd of 86,432 and at least 90 percent claimed to be United loyalists. LVG wasn’t even slightly phased. With all the relentless Fleet Street scuttlebutt about competition for the captaincy between Wayne Rooney and a vacationing Robin Van Persie, what does the new gaffer do? He gives the skipper’s job to Darren Fletcher.

Whether Van Gaal’s line-up was actually 5-2-3 or more like what I’d call 3-4-2-1 is kind of immaterial. Everybody knew their job. For a team that’s had a lot of problems concerning consistence and confidence over that very problem since 2008, Manchester United looked more like a rosy-cheeked bride awakening on the morning after her honeymoon rather than the spoiled hubris-befuddled bunch of feckless millionaires portrayed by the press. It’s certainly not wise to make too much out of victory over a team with problems of its own, to be sure, but the psychological changes wrought on the team by Van Gaal and his staff in less than two weeks is downright amazing. With Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw consistently employed as wingbacks, relentlessly pushing forward to support a central duo of Fletcher and Ander Herrera, and not having to worry about getting back as the defense’s three CBs—Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling—played a mobile high line, someone was always ready to plug holes.

76488308 waynerooneyreuters3 In the Land of the Diva, Van Gaal is KingLuke Shaw performed well in his first United game. But it was United’s other new boy. Ander Herrera, who owned central midfield throughout. Beyond the baby face and relentless running there is a warrior-general. A master of short and long passing, the little Basque projected the kind of confidence we’ve been sorely missing since Roy Keane retired. Able to shift gears on the run, Herrera is able to slow down and speed up the game at will. His casual ability to instantaneously observe the big picture and alter the action accordingly from left to right and vice versa is exactly what the club needs. He may well yet need better protection than an aging Darren Fletcher can offer when the PL season starts up, but the upcoming combat with Daniele De Rossi in the AS Roma match will surely show us a lot. With Juan Mata, Rooney and Danny Welbeck all surprisingly fluid up top, they were repeatedly able to  interchange positions,  finding pockets of space as a result of Herrera’s superb passing and opening up the Galaxy defense like a knife to the carotid.

It only took a relaxed thirteen minutes before United breezed into the lead. The Galaxy almost scored first when Stefan Ishizaki found Gyasi Zardes, whose snap shot forced a quick save from David de Gea. After a brilliant bit of business from the hip-swiveling Juan Mata allowed him to nip into the box before locating Welbeck, who fired off a low 25-yard torpedo which flew past the Galaxy goalie Jaime Penedo and then into the net off the right post.76481165 rooney getty In the Land of the Diva, Van Gaal is King

It was Jones who impressed next. Clearly content to to be the fulcrum of the three center-backs, Jones was not the nervous hulk we’ve grown used to. Calmer than fans have been used to, Van Gaal seems to have already touched hik with a magic wand. His best moment in the first period came when he wiped away a clear Robbie Keane chance by poking out a toe to make a tackle inside the box. Keane angrily protested to the referee, Baldomero Toledo, but there was nothing in it. Then, minutes later, Jones started up a move to set up Tony Valencia on the right flank. A desperate A.J. Delagarza clearly handled the ball and Toledo to point to the spot. Rooney stepped, up coolly placed the penalty to Penendo’s left, and it was 2-0.

United’s third goal was a comedy of Galaxy defensive errors in injury time of the first half. A fine Welbeck run down the right wing led to a pinpoint cross into the box that a desperate Tommy Meyer missed completely. Rooney charged in on the loose ball and had his chip from close range pushed aside by Penedo. Rooney was quick enough to pick off the block, however, and stroked the ball home.

76482802 james getty In the Land of the Diva, Van Gaal is KingFollowing Van Gaal’s inaugural half-time talk he made nine changes, with only Herrera and Fletcher–who dropped into a central back position–remaining on the field. Nobody in particular stood out in the second half beyond Herrera, but one couldn’t help but be impressed by Reece James, a 20-year-old left-back on for Shaw, who scored twice on his red devil debut as United scored four more second half goals.

62 minutes in Hererra fed Ashley Young on the right flank. Young, who is scratching desperately for a chance to stay in the squad after two disappointing seasons, found James and the young Manc blasted another left-footed torpedo home from fifteen yards out to make it 4-0. Better yet, in the 84th minute, again fed by Young, James blasted home a carbon-copy from the same approximate position. After setting up two, Young then helped himself to a late double with two fine finishes both from passes by Herrera. The second, an exquisite little tap-in after he ghosted into the box and through three Galaxy defenders, looked like the Ashley Young of old.

What Van Gaal learned in the second half about his team is interesting to contemplate upon as more than a few players need to be sold to balance out the squad. Culling the squad is always an act of cruelty but the Dutchman definitely showed that he will give everybody on the trip an opportunity before the tour ends.

76488509 reecejamesafp In the Land of the Diva, Van Gaal is King

Ivor Irwin

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