Louis van Gaal has responded to Sam Allardyce’s tongue-in-cheek claim that Manchester United are a long-ball side, in a way that was strikingly reminiscent of a Rafa Benitez or Kevin Keegan v Sir Alex Ferguson moment.
The bizarre Dutchman, whose favourite word is philosophy, whipped out a dossier of statistics in the pre-Burnley press conference. The stats seemed to suggest that United played only 49% of their long balls forward to their striker, while West Ham played 71% of theirs up to the front man. Nobody is really sure what to do with this information.
The problem is not that United are a long ball side, it is that they only look capable of scoring when they become one.
The strangest choices in terms of tactics continue to halt United’s progress in their goal of securing the all-important Champions League spot. The United manager refuses to play Di Maria out wide, refuses to play Rooney upfront instead of the either one of the currently misfiring strikers, and sticks with this 3-5-2 formation despite every possible piece of evidence which suggests his squad suits a 4-4-2.
Although the level is not anywhere near what you would expect when £150 million has been splurged on players, United only need to string together a couple of decent performances and results to actually appease the growing impatience of the huge global fan base, but all the time van Gaal continues with his “philosophy” of playing loads of players in their wrong positions, it probably won’t happen.
Tonight, United host Burnley, and they really should put the team Di Maria made his debut against to the sword at Old Trafford.
Other games see Chelsea face Everton, and Stoke host Man City.