Manchester United, Louis Van Gaal, and wilful over-analysis

Manchester United's Louis Van Gaal

Louis Van Gaal’s CV was just a bit too impressive for some.

Generally, a British football audience rather enjoys it when a big-name foreigner comes to these shores and fails.  We really thrive on being able to point out that, just because a manager or player has won everything there is to win on the continent, it doesn’t mean that he can traverse the opening rounds of our league cup.

What’s happening this morning is a big pretence.  Manchester United got heavily and embarrassingly beaten by Milton Keynes Dons last night, and its been the source of much online hilarity.  That’s understandable; United have been successful for a long time, they fielded a relatively competitive side last night, and their failure is obviously amusing to those who have watched them dominate English football for the last two decades.

That’s really how tribalism works.

It’s been interesting, though, to read some of the criticism aimed at Louis Van Gaal in the aftermath.  The United players who took the field last night were a collection of first-teamers who seem destined to leave the club within the coming days, disinterested by-standers like Anderson, and youth team ringers.  It was still a surprise that they lost as heavily as they did and some of the individual performances were still shameful, but let’s not pretend that it holds a greater significance than it really does.

From being anointed as an immediate saviour back in June, Louis Van Gaal is now becoming a victim of the rush-to-judgement culture that accompanies everything that happens in the game.  At the time of his appointment, I projected that it wouldn’t take long for certain sections of the media and the public to start attacking Van Gaal and chipping away at his abilities, and that the same old xenophobia-driven resentment would fuel a campaign against him at the first opportunity.

That hasn’t begun yet, but today we’re seeing those seeds starting to germinate.

Everybody knows that Manchester United shouldn’t be losing 4-0 to a side in League One, but everyone also knows that the circumstances in which that result occurred make a full-blooded reaction to the defeat slightly ridiculous.  We know that, but we choose to ignore it - we want the opportunity to pose false questions of Van Gaal and to create doubt about his suitability to English football and we enjoy seeing someone of his stature stumble on his way through the door.

Last night was embarrassing, but the attempts to elevate it beyond meme-fodder are predictably contrived.  It’s very easy to spot the people who are craving Van Gaal’s failure.

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