At the time of his arrival in 2014, Manchester United needed Louis van Gaal. Make no mistake, it was the correct appointment.
The disastrous reign and subsequent sacking of David Moyes meant United required a wealth of experience in their new hire. Someone with a sense of character strong enough to deal with stepping out of the shadow of Sir Alex Ferguson and somebody who stuck to his guns, who knew exactly what he wanted.
United found those qualities in the former Dutch national coach. After guiding the Netherlands to third place in the 2014 World Cup, big things were expected, but Van Gaal's first job would be to revamp a weak squad with the aid of the heftiest of transfer budgets. Nearly £260m later, and over the last three transfer windows, he's done exactly that.
Sure, they may still require a centre half and a centre forward, but United now boast one of the strongest squads in the country. After a decent start to the new season - looking at the Premier League table, anyway - the Red Devils are well placed to challenge for the top honours again.
Football, though, can be about more than just results. Especially when it concerns a club like Manchester United. United fans are a patient bunch. The majority would have never expected either Moyes or Van Gaal to win the Premier League in their respective first seasons in the job.
The transition period had been accepted. It was unrealistic to expect anything but after Ferguson's departure.
But while Moyes wasn't trusted with guiding the team for any longer than his ill-fated ten month spell at the helm, Van Gaal's achievement of a top four place last term was considered progress, especially after Moyes could only steer United to seventh the year prior. But it's about now that the Dutchman will have been expected to kick on again.
Van Gaal has a three-year plan and it's refreshing that he's being given the chance to implement his tactics in order to improve the side without pressure from above. But therein lies the problem. It's Van Gaal's much-championed philosophy that will end up costing him in the end, especially if we've finally found the definition of it with their recent performances.
A number of former players - namely Paul Scholes and now Andrei Kanchelskis - have been highly critical of Van Gaal's tactics, and they're starting to grate on the fans too. Scholes claims that he couldn't play in Van Gaal's United team, while Kanchelskis has described their football as "disgusting" at times. Stern words to say the least.
Though while Van Gaal may not want to hear their opinions, they're far more accurate than any United supporter will have liked them to be. Manchester United have become boring. And while that's a trait most would have been willing to accept if it meant a solid foundation was being built - before adding the gloss later on - that doesn't appear to be the case.
United are predictable. Over the first 11 games in the Premier League, they are the second highest team in the country in the average possession table - at 59% - while United sit second and first respectively when it comes to sideways and backward passes. To top it off, they sit in 19th in the table for total chances created and total shots on goal. The proof is in the pudding.
Van Gaal insists that all the work he carries out is part of a process, but it's really hard to know where the process is going. There's been nothing in the performances this year to suggest that United will be able to offer anything more than what we've already seen.
Yes, they have some top quality players, but when they are not given the freedom to express themselves outside of the rigid system they find themselves playing in, they're going to find it extremely tough to make a difference. Wayne Rooney has undoubtedly been off form and yes, he should be taken out of the team (albeit temporarily), but his lack of goals and dip in form aren't completely his fault.
Rooney lacks the pace to get out of tight spaces and that's all he's going to have to work in up front as United's build up play is so slow, so often. Anthony Martial is far better placed through the middle on current evidence, but Van Gaal has been too stubborn to make the adjustment.
That stubbornness - while it may have been one of the key factors in earning him the job in the first place - will ultimately be to his detriment. Van Gaal needs to recognise that this season is as good a chance as any to win the Premier League, but don't bet on that happening. He's already admitted it's out of reach this year.
What we're seeing now, is Van Gaal's United. It's uninspiring, insipid and bland. And if he refuses to change, it'll make him the transition manager that his predecessor was always thought to be.
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