Manchester United, synonymous with success. 20 times champions of England, 3 times kings of Europe, twice rulers of the world. But lately, the success has dried up, a 7th placed finish under Moyes, scraping into the top 4 last term, and now out of the Champions League in the group stage and an 8 game winless streak this year.
According the the Daily Mail, key figures in the Manchester United dressing room have held crisis talks with manager, Louis van Gaal in an attempt to stop the slump and improve morale at the club. The newspaper claims that Captain Wayne Rooney, along with Michael Carrick, Chris Smalling and Juan Mata, all met with manager Louis van Gaal to try to improve results and performances.
Louis van Gaal, known as the Iron Tulip in his native Netherlands due to his regimented methodology, has been under extreme pressure following an awful run of results. When the quartet of players went to see him 3 weeks ago, Van Gaal was willing to relinquish his grip on the training regimes in an attempt halt the decline.
The players asked Van Gaal to relax his strict, regimented training methods. They felt they were monotonous and left them feeling ‘like robots’. One exercise they asked to return, was the ‘Rondo’ – a possession based drill in a small area. It was popular under Sir Alex Ferguson and even David Moyes. The players enjoyed the freedom and improves their sharpness and creativity.
Van Gaal, thought to be clinging onto his job, was willing to accept such changes, providing that the players could handle the added responsibility that this would bring.
He also relaxed other aspects of off the field life at Manchester United. Strict meal times, compulsory pre match suppers, all have been relaxed.
Van Gaal said in his pre match press conference;
I think the atmosphere in our dressing room is very good, maybe too good because they are always protecting the dressing-room, their colleagues. That is very good until a certain point. We have changed our approach to the players to make it easier to take responsibility.
You can change your approach and so the players take the commitment, for example, for the game plan and other kinds of decisions. So we are trying everything to come to a solution, but at the end it always comes down to being better than the opponent. So we are trying everything to come to a solution, but at the end it always comes down to being better than the opponent and we have to score goals.
Since the crisis meeting, it’s hard to say results have improved. 2-0 defeat to stoke, 0-0 against Chelsea and a cagey 2-1 win against Swansea. But a win is a win. United showed glimpses of improvement in the Chelsea and Swansea games and hopefully a more relaxed atmosphere around Carrington is something that United can build upon.
Meanwhile, it has been reported in The Sun, that Van Gaal has also given more responsibility to Assistant Manager, Ryan Giggs. It had been thought that Giggs had very few responsibilities under Van Gaal’s rule, but since these crisis talks, Giggs has been given more input into the training regimes and match day tactics.
Manchester United have a crucial week ahead of them, Sheffield United at home today in the Emirates FA Cup, then a midweek trip to Newcastle before next weekends grudge match at Anfield. Positive performances and results will be key if van Gaal is to remain in his post for much longer.