Louis van Gaal is a pragmatist, a thinker, a philosopher. He sees where he wants to get to and plots out the most direct, effective and efficient route. The choice of destination is one of prerogative and the method of travel is one of philosophy. Manchester United need to be in contention for trophies and need to qualify for the Champions League.
After such a drastic change at the club, and a sub-standard offering last season, Manchester United need to re-build and to re-structure their on-field dominance. There’s no use in trying to paper over the cracks in the hope that longevity will somewhat befriend an otherwise damaged structure. Louis van Gaal has to tend to the club in a way that may only be appreciated long-term; in the same manner that many great philosophers, revolutionaries and inventors have all had to endure.
United are one of an elite group of unique footballing institutions. Renowned for sustained and (almost) unparalleled success, they are unable to silence the media, please the fans or remain amongst such an illustrious group without reaffirming that sustainment. Unlike many, United cannot survive on single trophies scattered over a lengthy series of seasons; they require something more substantial and altogether more rare: longevity.
One loss in nineteen games, third in the Premier League behind two experienced Premier League sides, and quarter-finalists in the FA Cup. Hardly a poor offering from a manager making his English debut, and yet despite that, there is still considerable tension rippling through the stands at Old Trafford. Generally speaking, statistics can be dry, inexplicable, acontextual. But in this instance they point to a very clear and obvious conclusion; Louis van Gaal is working.
This Manchester United team are hard to beat, they are gritty, and whilst they certainly aren’t winning games in the manner that we’ve seen previously, they are winning games. They’re picking up undeserved points and though performances haven’t been convincing, they have won more games than they haven’t, something they failed to do last season. Ultimately, United have found that winning, or rather unbeatable, mentality that has so embodied their extensive history; and given the defensive frailties, weaknesses and absence of quality, that is quite an achievement.
It’s clear that Louis van Gaal is well aware of the job he has to do, one element of which will become increasingly difficult: ignoring the fans. The ‘style over substance’ debate will perpetually resurface during any manager’s tenure and The Dutchman is no exception. The turgid, laborious, dull football that seems to follow United at present will cease to exist when, and only when, Louis van Gaal is content that he has the correct balance of minds at his disposal. Be that through philosophical dissemination or alternative personnel. Those that seem to believe Louis van Gaal isn’t aware of what the fans want are flirting with delusion. Those desires will be resting heavily on his shoulders, but should he buckle, failure looms.
Similar to an Architect, he needs to drill deeper than the surface to discover what is most important to Manchester United fans, to the club. He needs collectively compile all the components that make Manchester United what it is and draw up a scheme that actualises them. There is an order, a specific set of rules. In order to build for longevity the foundations have to be solid and the structure has to be meticulously constructed. The final stage of the process is furnishing.
The Architect has to bypass short-termism and envision the future. Louis van Gaal is a visionary, a philosopher. If Manchester United fans want style then they can hire anyone to furnish a building site. If they want the prestige, the sustainment, the best; then they need to allow the contractors to build and the Architect to guide them there. Simply buying the most expensive players doesn’t guarantee the most fruitful results. There are some things that you cannot buy. Mentality, ethos and philosophy to name but a few.
Bayern Munich and Barcelona are the two footballing giants that have dominated recent footballing history. They are the two football clubs that have surpassed ephemerality and embodied longevity and endurance. The same man laid the modern foundations at both of those football clubs…
…and he was a Dutchman.
This article was researched and written by Adam Sweeney. You can follow him on Twitter.