Louis van Gaal’s Man United tenure a strangely intriguing wreck

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Louis Van Gaal has left the building.

The 64-year-old Dutchman is out as Manchester United’s manager after the club confirmed the worst kept secret in sport on Monday with his three-year contract cut short after United’s failure to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season.

[ MORE: Mourinho in talks with United ]   

Two years after arriving at Old Trafford, we are all still a little confused as to what actually happened as the allure of LVG had us bamboozled, disgusted and intrigued, while perhaps now even a little sad that it’s over.

Van Gaal divided opinion among United’s fans, former players, pundits and the media for most of his tenure at Old Trafford. Now the end has arrived we’re not really sure if United are better off, worse off or just in a similar spot to before LVG arrived in 2014.

[ MORE: LVG releases statement after exit ] 

Towards the end there’s been an inevitability about his departure — despite his insistence he’d be in charge next season — but it’s worth noting that when the history books look back at Van Gaal’s time in charge of one of the world’s biggest teams, history will likely be kind to him. Right now it seems like a failure but compared to David Moyes‘ time in charge, it’s not. He delivered two top five finishes and an FA Cup trophy even if he couldn’t get them back to the UCL for next season. From that point of view he failed to meet his targets but despite all of the unrest about the tactics, personnel choices and his character, he didn’t miss his targets by much.

[ MORE: Premier League money table 2015-16 ]

Despite the tedious, glacial rate of play he fostered among his team, there were flashes of brilliance throughout his reign which kept you interested, kept you thinking that maybe, just maybe, LVG’s boys would spark into life and deliver the goods. Anthony Martial‘s late goal against Liverpool this season. Marcus Rashford‘s double against Arsenal. The 4-2 home win against Manchester City and the win at City earlier this season. All of those moments gave you a notion that maybe the previous struggles were all part of Van Gaal’s masterplan.

It has been said many times before in sport and I think United’s fans can vouch for this after the past two years: it’s not the losing, it’s the hope that kills you.

[ MORE: Cantona wants Guardiola over Mourinho ]

He arrived after success with the Netherlands at the 2014 World Cup and a mystique surrounding his name after the decades he spent on the European continent. Under LVG, United were meant to return to a swashbuckling giant, a force to be reckoned with in England and Europe. Yet it became clear quite early in his reign that that wasn’t going to be the case.

From his bizarre player selections to his penchant for slow, possession based play, Van Gaal quickly ate away at any excitement United’s fans had for him. Every now and then he would deliver memorable moments like throwing himself to the ground in the technical area, an impromptu speech on the mic at the end of season awards dinner and blurting out something about sex masochism in the media to keep everyone interested.

[ MORE: Best moments of LVG’s bizarre tenure

He told his players to be “horny” for the win, called out Sam Allardyce‘s long-ball accusations and had a go at journalists most weekends. The LVG sideshow delivered. The play on the pitch didn’t and that’s what ultimately cost him his job as his three-year project to return United to greatness ground to a halt. There was so much to dislike about Van Gaal’s egotistic comments and brash demeanor but at the same time there were so many reasons to admire him.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 09: Louis van Gaal, manager of Manchester Uniited speaks during a press conference ahead of the UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Aon Training Complex on March 9, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
Van Gaal is a man who led the club like Sir Alex Ferguson did, someone who knew what it meant to be at the helm of a global team and treat the fans with the respect they deserve and foster a family environment throughout the club. He put everything into it, even if he didn’t show it as he sat in the dugout writing notes on his clipboard during games. That angered fans and pundits who wanted to see more aggression a la Jurgen Klopp. They wanted more excitement and LVG couldn’t deliver it.

United’s fans were simply bored of seeing their team play. They recorded their lowest ever goals tally in the PL era this season. They went 11 home games in a season without scoring a goal in the first half. They simply didn’t deliver an exciting product on the pitch.

Van Gaal pointed to his philosophy and way of playing and he certainly stamped that on the team, successful or not. They led the PL in average possession this season and in backwards passes and although he managed to get through his ideas clearly to the players, it just didn’t work in the PL.

Manchester United Press Conference

All the time, though, it was interesting to see the situation unfold.

Many times United’s fans didn’t want to look, just like when you pass a car wreck on the road but are guilty of rubber-necking. Everybody, no matter what team you supported, wanted to drive by and have a long glance at United’s issues and then have their say on the matter without being up close at the scene to deal with the injury crisis’, plus having to blood youngsters (somewhat successfully) early, help under-performing players recover and then deal with the pressure which comes with managing such an illustrious club.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 23: Louis van Gaal manager of Manchester United celebrates with winning goalscorer Anthony Martial of Manchester United after victory in The Emirates FA Cup semi final match between Everton and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on April 23, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Perhaps the most damning factor of his tenure was player recruitment. Van Gaal was given over $375 million to rebuild a team demoralized by Moyes and then decimated in the summer the Dutchman arrived. The only money he spent wisely was on Martial and Daley Blind plus helped the likes of Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson break into the team.

Mercurial talents such as Angel di Maria, Memphis and Radamel Falcao just didn’t fit into his system. Until the bitter end he spoke about the club’s failure to get in his transfer targets, the players he wanted and tried to defend his teams lack of cutting edge in the final third. In the end, his excuses fell on deaf ears. He tried to explain himself too much over the two years and his relationship with the media soured over time.

One of the most alluring things about Van Gaal is his personality. He is brash, confident and outspoken because he’s been there, seen it and done it. He’s won trophies in Holland, Spain, Germany and now in England after his FA Cup success. He is an Amsterdammer who believes in himself and his ability as a manager. That provided countless moments in press conferences where awkward silences would be conjured by LVG, all the time glaring at a journalist who dared to question his authority, his team selections or the mentality of his team. He continued that until the end and went at the media time and time again.

His last words to the media as Manchester United’a manager were at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, just as news was breaking from people in that very room that Jose Mourinho was set to take his job from him.

One last time he was bullish, combative and forthright.

Asking questions to Van Gaal over the past few years in crowded press conferences (they were never empty because, well, nobody knew what he would say next) myself and others always felt his eyes latch onto you as he sized you up and decided if you were worthy of an answer. He played the game. He always kept everyone guessing, just like the man he tried to replicate at United, Sir Alex Ferguson, did. His need for control seemed overbearing but he was old school, a former school teacher from Amsterdam who was the heir to Johan Cruyff at Ajax but never got the chance to break through and replace his idol.

If his playing career wasn’t anything special, his career as a coach has been. He built a dynasty at Ajax, won major trophies with huge clubs and led the Netherlands to the World Cup semifinals in 2014 with a team that excited the fans. His time with Manchester United will live long in the memory despite two seasons of mediocrity for a club of their size. Fourth-place and fifth-place Premier League finishes will not be celebrated in 10 years to come by United’s fans but they’ll be sat having a pint in a pub saying “do you remember when Van Gaal…”

His legacy won’t be glorious among United’s fans but it will be memorable. Van Gaal’s legend lives on as intrigue and mystique remain as he saunters out of the exit door at Old Trafford.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21: Louis van Gaal Manager of Manchester United salutes the fans after winning The Emirates FA Cup Final match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium on May 21, 2016 in London, England. Man Utd won 2-1 after extra time. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Man City vs Man United: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Manchester City vs Manchester United: Erling Haaland is set for his Manchester derby debut when the two-time defending champions host the rapidly improving Red Devils at Etihad Stadium on Sunday (watch live, 9 am ET on Peacock Premium). 

STREAM LIVE MAN CITY vs MAN UNITED

Haaland has taken the Premier League by storm with an absurd 11 goals scored in his first seven games after (ostensibly) choosing Man City over Man United before leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer.

Six weeks ago, Manchester United had not a single point from their first two games, including a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of tiny Brentford, but Erik ten Hag has since switched tactical course en route to four straight wins, including a 3-1 victory over PL leaders Arsenal last time out, to set up this hugely intriguing showdown on Sunday.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Man City vs Man United

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Manchester City vs Manchester United live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 9 am ET, Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Key storylines & star players

Despite a pair of disappointing draws (Newcastle and Aston Villa), it’s been an unbeaten start to the 2022-23 season for Man City, who still lead the PL in possession (66.4 percent per game) while also becoming an unstoppable offensive force from last season (14 goals in their first seven games) to this season (23). That’s not to say it’s been easy as Manchester City go through a tactical shift of their own to better appeal to the big Norwegian’s poaching abilities. Though they have been forced to grind out results a few times already this season, it’s highlighted a newfound spontaneity for a side that’s been as regimented as any in the world. Will that freedom be what ultimately lands Pep Guardiola his first Champions League trophy since 2011, and perhaps a third straight PL title (and a fifth in six years) to boot?

As for Manchester United, the Ten Hag era has been a wild roller-coaster ride already, short as it’s been. The back-to-back defeats were one thing, but the abject performances were the real cause for discontent. While picking up the four straight victories, the Dutchman has also settled on a midfield setup with Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen operating in (effectively) a double pivot with Bruno Fernandes the most advanced of the three. It has brought defensive stability, of course, but more importantly the change has revealed a deadly counter-attacking side. Each of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Fernandes have scored twice during the winning run, with new boy Antony also getting in on the fun on his debut. With space in behind (and the proper service from deep), Ten Hag might just have his first winning formula (albeit quite unlike him).


Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Kalvin Phillips (shoulder), John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Aymeric Laporte (knee)

Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Harry Maguire (hamstring), Marcus Rashford (thigh), Brandon Williams (undisclosed), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE, Donny van de Beek (knock), Martin Dubravka (knock)

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Premier League injury news, 2022-23 season

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Premier League injury news: It’s time to take a look at which players might be unavailable for matchweek 8 of the 2022-23 Premier League season, due to injury.

[ MORE: How to watch the Premier League on NBC ]

Prior to every matchweek this season, we’ll update this Premier League injuries page with the latest news and update, so make sure to check back regularly to see how your favorite — or least-favorite — club is getting on.

Let’s check out the latest Premier League injury news, below.


Arsenal injuries

OUT: Emile Smith Rowe (groin), Mohamed Elneny (thigh) | QUESTIONABLE: Thomas Partey (knee), Oleksandr Zinchenko (calf),, Kieran Tierney (head), Cedric Soares (knock), Reiss Nelson (thigh)

Aston Villa injuries

OUT: Diego Carlos (achilles), Lucas Digne (ankle), Boubacar Kamara (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Matty Cash (hamstring), Cameron Archer (adductor)

Bournemouth injuries

OUT: David Brooks (fitness), Lloyd Kelly (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Joseph Rothwell (thigh), Benjamin Pearson (undisclosed), Ryan Fredericks (undisclosed)

Brentford injuries

OUT: Christian Norgaard (achilles), Keane Lewis-Potter (knock) | QUESTIONABLE: Ethan Pinnock (knee)

Brighton & Hove Albion injuries

OUT: Jakub Moder (knee), Enock Mwepu (illness) | QUESTIONABLE: Adam Lallana (calf)

Chelsea injuries

QUESTIONABLE: N’Golo Kante (hamstring), Edouard Mendy (knee), Marc Cucurella (illness), Carney Chukwuemeka  (illness)

Crystal Palace injuries

OUT:  Jack Butland (hand), Nathan Ferguson (foot), James McArthur (groin) | QUESTIONABLE: James Tomkins (undisclosed)

Everton injuries

OUT: Ben Godfrey (broken leg), Yerry Mina (ankle), Nathan Patterson (ankle), Mason Holgate (knee), Andros Townsend (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (knee)

Fulham injuries

OUT: Harry Wilson (knee), Joao Pahlinha (suspension), Manor Solomon (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Antonee Robinson (ankle)

Leeds United injuries

OUT: Rodrigo (shoulder), Stuart Dallas (thigh) | QUESTIONABLE: Adam Forshaw (ankle)

Leicester City injuries

OUT: Ricardo Pereira (achilles), Ryan Bertrand (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Patson Daka (illness)

Liverpool injuries

OUT: Naby Keita (undisclosed), Curtis Jones (calf), Calvin Ramsay (undisclosed), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring) | QUESTIONABLE: Ibrahima Konate (knee), Andrew Robertson (knee), Caoimhin Kelleher (groin)

Manchester City injuries

OUT: Kalvin Phillips (shoulder), John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Aymeric Laporte (knee)

Manchester United injuries

OUT: Harry Maguire (hamstring), Marcus Rashford (thigh), Brandon Williams (undisclosed), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE, Donny van de Beek (knock), Martin Dubravka (knock)

Newcastle United injuries

OUT: Aleksander Isak (leg), Jonjo Shelvey (thigh), Matt Ritchie (calf), Emil Krafth (knee), Karl Darlow (ankle) | QUESTIONABLE: Allan Saint-Maximin (hamstring), Chris Wood (ribs)

Nottingham Forest injuries

OUT: Omar Richards (calf), Moussa Niakhate (thigh), Orel Mangala (undisclosed) | QUESTIONABLE: Emmanuel Dennis (knock), Morgan Gibbs-White (knock), Scott McKenna (knee)

Southampton injuries

OUT: Valentino Livramento (knee), Romeo Lavia (undisclosed)

Tottenham Hotspur injuries

QUESTIONABLE: Hugo Lloris (quad), Dejan Kulusevski (undisclosed), Ben Davies (knee), Lucas Moura (achilles)

West Ham United injuries

OUT: Nayef Aguerd (ankle) | QUESTIONABLE: Benjamin Johnson (hamstring)

Wolverhampton Wanderers injuries

OUT: Raul Jimenez (groin), Sasa Kalajdzic (torn ACL), Nathan Collins (suspension), Chiquinho (knee)

Ever Wonder why Arsenal moved from South to North London?

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Our ‘Ever Wonder’ series will run throughout the 2022-23 Premier League season and focuses on key stories behind the history, tradition and culture of all 20 Premier League clubs.

[ MORE: Check out our ‘Ever Wonder’ series in full ]

Have you ever sat there and wondered why certain chants became iconic at a club? Why a team has a certain nickname? Why they play in those colors? How they were founded? Yep, us too.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

This season we will be digging deep to tell the stories of the rich history, tradition and culture from around the Premier League and give you the answers to things you want to know more about.


Ever Wonder why Arsenal moved across London?

Based in Woolwich in south east London, the club was originally founded in 1886 as a group of workers from the Woolwich Arsenal Armament Factory decided to set up a club.

They were originally called Dial Square because of a sun dial atop the entrance to the factory. Seriously.

As for the factory itself, it served the British Army with ammunition and explosives research and 80,000 people worked there during the First World War.


Red jerseys and stadium struggles

Dial Square then became Royal Arsenal and players from Nottingham Forest joined the club, hence the now famous Garibaldi red jerseys which Forest, established 20 years before Arsenal, gave them.

After moving around several stadiums in Plumstead, which was based on the outskirts of London at the time, Arsenal then became Woolwich Arsenal and it stayed that way until 1913.

Struggling financially due to Plumstead being in an isolated area and not easy for people to travel to compared to other London clubs, Woolwich Arsenal were looking for other locations to move to from their Manor Ground home.

Arsenal vs Liverpool at the Manor Ground in Plumstead


Bombing accelerates move

During the suffragettes battle for equality for women in the UK, targeted bombings were carried out at high profile venues.

One such bombing occurred at Arsenal’s home stadium, destroying the grandstand at the Manor Ground in 1913 which would reportedly cost over $1,220 to repair.

With a significant bill to pay to repair the stadium and the club once again teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, the largest shareholder of the consortium who bought the club in 1910, Sir Henry Norris, decided to move the club to Highbury in north London in 1913 after a failed attempt to merge Fulham and Arsenal, the two clubs he was chairman of.

Arsenal moved to Highbury Stadium


Controversial 12-mile move from South to North London approved in 1913

Amid uproar from fans in Woolwich and north London, it still happened and famed stadium architect Archibald Leitch built their home ground at Highbury.

That is when the Arsenal we know today was truly born.

They soon became known as ‘The Arsenal’ in 1914 and then dropped ‘the’ to become known simply as Arsenal in 1919 as football resumed in England following the First World War.


Feud with Tottenham begins

In-between then a feud had already bubbled up with Tottenham. Of course it had.

Arsenal were promoted to the first division at the expense of Tottenham amid huge controversy and after a league vote, Arsenal took Spurs’ place in the first division.

Hence a bitter rivalry was born and Tottenham’s fans like to remind Arsenal to, shall we say, ‘head back to Woolwich, please, because north London is ours.’ The real version is obviously less polite.


The Gunners have never looked back

Financial success, being close to a London Underground station and improved facilities were the main reasons Arsenal moved 12 miles across London to north London in 1913 and it is where they have remained ever since.

London’s most successful team (in terms of the number of major titles and top-flight titles), the decision to move Arsenal across England’s capital city is still bearing fruit over 100 years later.

They’ve come a long way from a team set up in a factory which made explosives for the British Military.

Fantasy Premier League Week 9: Who to captain, top transfer targets

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The return of the Premier League from international break brings, as usual, injuries, intrigue, and a load of, “Who’s good at dealing with travel?” to our Fantasy Premier League discussion.

Rather than delve deep into stats that analyze the last part of that, let’s take a look at the first several weeks of the Premier League season and ask: Who’s piling up the points?

[ MORE: Premier League odds, predictions ]

And let’s also look deeper than the obvious answers; Erling Haaland and Gabriel Jesus have been the genuine article for Manchester City and Arsenal, respectively, but who else is consistently dropping decent numbers?

We’ll also ignore some penalty takers, as surely Alexis Mac Allister won’t spend his season heading to the spot with the same regularity he has for Brighton early in it.

Here’s the “All-Fantasy Premier League XI” heading into Week 9, but before that, how about a couple of captain and transfer options?

This week is highlighted by some Bees, who seem to have people forgetting both how unlucky they’ve been and how fortunate their hosts have been in recent weeks…

Add and/or captain Week 9: Ivan Toney, Brentford at Bournemouth, 7.3M

Add, Week 9: David Raya, Brentford at Bournemouth, 4.5M

Add, Week 9: Kyle Walker-Peters, Southampton vs Everton, 4.5M

Add, Week 9: Lucas Paqueta, West Ham vs Wolves, 6.0M

Captain, Week 9: Mohamed Salah, Liverpool vs Brighton, 12.9M

Captain, Week 9: James Maddison, Leicester vs Nottingham Forest, 7.9M

Goalkeeper

Nick Pope, Newcastle (5.2 million, 38 points): After not facing a single shot in Newcastle’s 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest on Opening Day, the Burnley transfer has made 30 saves over six more matches. He’s twice claimed bonus points

Defenders

William Saliba, Arsenal (4.9 million, 44 points): Almost as many goals (2) as clean sheets (3) for the CB.

Joao Cancelo, Manchester City (7.2 million, 42 points): A goal, an assist, and three times earning bonus points for his managers.

Kieran Trippier, Newcastle United (5.4 million, 35 points): Same as Cancelo, but with Newcastle.

Midfielders

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City (12.3 million, 45 points): Two matches with multiple goal contributions, the same number as the mere two times he’s been held without one (and one of those was a 21-minute appearance).

Pascal Gross, Brighton (6.0 million, 42 points): Can he keep it up? Seems unlikely, but the midfielder was essentially playing forward for Graham Potter. Will it stay the same under Roberto De Zerbi?

Marcus Rashford, Manchester United (6.6 million, 40 points): Still trading under 7.0 million and listed as a midfielder. Please and thank you.

Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal (6.6 million, 39 points): The quiet gem of Arsenal, he’s showing us why Mikel Arteta kept trotting him out last season.

Alexis Mac Allister, Brighton (5.6 million, 39 points): Pens won’t last forever.

Bernardo Silva, Manchester City (7.0 million, 39 points): And to think he could’ve left for Barcelona…

Forwards

Erling Haaland, Manchester City (12.0 million, 73 points): An actual monster.

Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur (11.4 million, 50 points): Derby day looms.

Ivan Toney, Brentford (7.3 million, 47 points): How long can Brentford hold onto him? A complete center forward.

Aleksandar Mitrovic (6.9 million, 41 points): Can he keep this up in the Premier League as the focal point for Fulham with a stint as Serbia’s focal point in the middle.

Gabriel Jesus (8.0 million, 39 points): His heroics have been well-covered.