The coach still needs to coach
When Dutchman Louis van Gaal replaced David Moyes ( and temporary appointment Ryan Giggs) as Manchester United’s manager a few months ago, he scoffed at the quality of the squad he had inherited.
‘‘We can’t win the Premiership with these players,’’ van Gaal said, and set about buying in more big-name stars.
He paid £29 million (NZ$57 million) for Ander Herrera, £27 million for Luke Shaw, £16 million for Marcos Rojo, £59.7 million for Angel Di Maria, £14 million for Daley Blind, £6 million to get Radamel Falcao on loan and an undisclosed amount for teenaged Vanja Milinkovic.
The spending splurge meant Manchester United’s squad, already the fifth most expensive among European clubs, rose to third on that list, behind Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The Real Madrid squad is worth about 535 million euros (NZ$835 million) and Barcelona’s comes in at 530 million euros. Manchester United’s is now worth 505 million euros, ahead even of big spenders Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Chelsea and Juventus.
The spending spree hasn’t helped van Gaal, whose team have not won a Premiership match this season.
United have lost 2- 1 at home to Swansea, and drawn 1-1 with Sunderland and 0-0 with Burnley. They were also thrashed 4-0 in the League Cup by lowly Milton Keynes Dons ( formerly Wimbledon).
The combined cost of those four opposition squads would not even remotely approach what Manchester United’s crown jewels are valued at.
Everton manager David Moyes was lured to United in 2013 to replace the great Alex Ferguson and had a disastrous season, during which the club won no trophies, finished seventh in the Premier League and failed to qualify for a European competition for the first time since 1990.
Right now, Moyes’ record doesn’t seem quite so bad when stacked up against what van Gaal has managed. United are currently 14th in the Premiership table.
I was suspicious when I heard van Gaal’s first utterings about not having good enough players.
The squad he inherited had a combined value of £370 million. The players, from Wayne Rooney down, weren’t exactly chopped liver.
Sure, every manager wants more superstars, but van Gaal was sending out a poor message. Didn’t he back himself to work with the talent already at the club, build partnerships and improve the players’ performances?
It’s true that good players make good coaches.
Graham Henry would not have been able to coach Japan to Rugby World Cup honours in 2011. Equally, John Kirwan, Japan’s coach, would probably have finished that tournament with outstanding results if he’d been coaching the All Blacks.
But van Gaal didn’t exactly inherit a substandard group of players. Perhaps they’d lost a bit of belief and perhaps there was room for one or two canny purchases.
The message he sent out was all wrong. He seemed to want to buy a Premiership, rather than coach a team to that honour.
I’m not surprised Manchester United have been so disappointing this season. When the boss doesn’t back himself, how can the players?
Never mind Ferguson, who from 1986 till 2013 helped United fill their trophy cabinet several times over. United fans now are wistfully recalling the days of Moyes.
Star signing: Angel Di Maria is introduced to the Old Trafford crowd last week by Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal.