There is much pleasure to be found in watching Louis van Gaal speak. He is a man with a greatly expressive face who clearly takes amusement from his interactions with other humans. Last night’s post-match interview on Sky was a clear illustration of this.
When Louis is in a good mood you can tell, there is a hint of mischief in his expression and he is happy to respond to questions that clearly offend him. For example, when the interviewer mentioned that United had only had three shots on target in two games, his response was jovial.
“It does not bother me. Because you have to score one more than your opponent.”
That is a remarkably good-natured response to a question that clearly scrutinised both his tactics and his captain. If you compare this with his monosyllabic tantrum after United had lost at Chelsea and deflated their season in April, the contrast is stark.
In truth, United were more efficient than glorious at Villa Park and Wayne Rooney gave plenty of ammunition to those who don’t like him no matter what he does. The reasons for another fragmented United performance are obvious though.
The season is only two games old and there are four new players in the first eleven. To have registered two clean sheets with a new goalkeeper, a new right back and Daley Blind thrown in at centre-half is no mean feat. Cohesion will improve as these guys get to know each other.
Rooney will come into form. He has always scored his goals in spurts and he was crucial to the goal last week against Spurs. To be frank, he would benefit more than anyone else from United buying a new striker, as he tends to thrive when someone puts him under threat.
Memphis Depay is also about to catch fire. He certainly has a tendency to try a bit hard and shoot from all over the place, but that will even itself out eventually. His movement is superb and if he continues to make incisive runs he is going to score plenty of goals soon enough.
Schneiderlein does not grab the attention but he performs his role in the heart of the midfield with the kind of efficiency that is characterising United under Van Gaal. The Frenchman made more touches that any United player, other than man of the match Blind, and recorded a passing accuracy of 88%. He is a steady pair of feet.
That is United at the moment. The pieces are mostly there but the machine is not firing on all cylinders yet. The manager knows how to get results in the meantime and that is what he is doing. It is that approach that got United back into the top four and the same philosophy has got six points from six at the start of the season.
The big test, the one we have all been waiting for, comes on Tuesday night at Old Trafford. If United can log another steady victory over Club Bruges to edge them towards the Champions League group stages, everyone will be happy.
It would be good if they could score more than one goal though.
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