The talk in my circle before this match was whether to watch the game at all. So dull have United been of late that LVG himself even used the word “bored” when describing watching them. While this 3-3 against Newcastle restored the enterprise and entertainment factors, all the big question marks remain.
“We should have won,” said Wayne Rooney in the aftermath. No United fans would disagree with him and in particular the captain emerges with credit from the past couple of weeks. That is four goals in three for the number ten and he is starting to find some form, finally. His link up play and ability to lead the line was superb in Newcastle but this comes will the caveat; it was Newcastle.
The Geordies are warming up the relegation battle again and it has still been a while since Rooney dominated a big team. Liverpool at the weekend will be a more interesting examination.
Maruane Fellaini is unlikely to find himself starting the match against the old enemy. He missed a glorious chance to close the game out and it is at him that the old frustrations will be aimed in the morning. Fair or not, Fellaini is a lightening rod for dissatisfaction and this latest display will do nothing to change that. People just don’t see him as a United player.
The man with a chance is Jesse Lingard. He too was guilty of squandering an opportunity to end the game as a contest. Instead, he looped his sitter over the bar in a manner that would have made Ronny Rosenthal squeamish. LVG did nothing to hide his anger and he was substituted shortly afterwards.
Lingard did score a peach of a goal earlier in the match but the team have serious questions to answer for not holding on to a two-goal lead against a struggling team. In many ways, Van Gaal unleashed the shackles for this match but the manner in which it finished will no doubt see him tighten the belt again over the coming weeks.
So the great Louis van Gaal conundrum endures. The Dutchman is great at blooding youth, organising his side and having courage in his convictions. The doubts linger because of his poor gelling with the club’s ethos and traditions.
Manchester United are on a knife-edge at the moment. If left to the mob, they could regress to being the overpaid show-offs of the 1980s. If Van Gaal continues to get his own way then they will be as parsimonious and tedious as the Arsenal of George Graham.
A happy balance between the two extremes, one that delivers excitement and success, is yet to be found. My suspicion is United will head to Anfield too far down the table to bother the title race and with a game-plan designed to stifle rather than create.
This game at Newcastle will leave Louis feeling more convinced of himself than ever. He will be sure that his way is the right way. The problem is, it is not the United way.
Mark is the author of Fergie’s Last Stand, just £3 this January
Follow him on www.twitter.com/markjpayne