Thierry Henry on Monday Night Football explained how Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona went about scoring goals. Pep’s side also had a rigid structure where players are supposed to stick to their positions rather than move around freely. But Pep also had a designated area in the final third where the players are free to move,pass,dribble and score goals. This freedom in the final third along with the positional play in the rest of the pitch allowed Barcelona to rack up trophies during Pep’s time.
The issue with Van Gaal’s United is the lack of freedom even in the final third. United’s players seldom make runs or stretch the play. Off the ball movement and intelligence doesn’t seem to be at play when United are hogging the ball. And of course United don’t have the players to play like Barcelona did. At Barcelona, Pep’s tactics worked out so well as he had so many intelligent and disciplined players who would stick to his plan till the final third but after that their individuality made all the difference. The talent,creativity,football intelligence at Pep’s disposal was far greater than what Van Gaal has. But Van Gaal knows this,so the biggest question was why did Van Gaal not adapt? Sir Alex Ferguson was at the top for so long only because he could adapt to the changing times and the changing nature of his squads. It looks like Van Gaal will pay the ultimate price for trying to impose his philosophy on a squad which simply doesn’t have the attributes to implement the same successfully.