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Culture cringe GARBAGE: How LVG embraced 'Man Utd Way' to inspire revival

"You can't survive, playing like that in England. The tempo and sheer speed of the game in the Premier League is like nowhere else in the world." - Daley Blind

Daley Blind was speaking about the Dutch style of play, total football an' all that. But he could easily have been talking about Louis van Gaal's tactics in the first months of the Dutchman's Manchester United career.

Yesterday, we saw Van Gaal's team playing a brand of Premier League football at its very best. And influenced hugely by the 'Manchester United Way'.

But think back to those first months of the season. A back five. Three in midfield. Chants of "4-4-2, 4-4-2" ringing out from the hardcore support at away grounds.

We had Michael Carrick - even Gary Neville - warning United fans that they'd have to get used to this new 'possession game'. The support would have to be 're-educated' to Van Gaal's philosophy and those treasured notes hidden in that damn clipboard.

When it wasn't working, it was the players at fault. They "weren't intelligent" enough. They weren't the "thinking footballers" that Van Gaal wanted to work with.

The slow, slow...., slow, fast, possession game of Van Gaal would work in England - if only he had the right players. And those who didn't agree simply didn't understand the game. Like the English player, they weren't cultured enough to recognise the superior tactics Van Gaal was employing... what a load of garbage!

United's resurgence, with last night's performance and result topping the win at a flagging Liverpool, was all owed to the manager realising the unique requirements for success in England.

Victory over Manchester City was achieved with a flat back four, two wide men and a pair of central midfielders. The sideways passing has gone. United's languid start to a half has gone. From kickoff, It's now up-and-at-'em. It's take a risk, back yourself and forget about playing it safe.

Van Gaal is now playing the Manchester United Way. Even in his selection, he's a manager transformed.

At the beginning of the season, with his back five plans, the Dutchman's supporters claimed it was a 3-5-2 system. But it wasn't. Van Gaal's intention was to fill his wing-back roles with natural fullbacks - Rafael on the right and Luke Shaw on the left. Essentially it was a back five. Only injury forced him to field Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia in those positions.

But fast forward to today and the manager has done a 180. Against City, Valencia, even with Rafael fully fit and on the bench, was preferred. He's gone with the attacking option, even if it risked the opposition taking advantage of Valencia's inexperience in the role. Instead, Gael Clichy found himself overwhelmed with both Valencia and Juan Mata bombing down his left.

Yes, Van Gaal has worked wonders with his man-management. It was how much of a loss United could afford to take on the sales of Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini not so long ago. Now they're two of the most influential players in the country. Young hasn't played better football in his career.

But United's turnaround isn't about individuals magically getting better. It's come from a manager adjusting HIS tactics and HIS system to suit a competition unlike anyother in the world. Allowing his players to compete in a formation that works has lifted their confidence - as has resisting any thought of rotations.

Did Van Gaal take notice of those "4-4-2" chants? Perhaps. But one thing's for sure, if he'd persisted with his 'possession' game, United fans would never have experienced a night like yesterday at Old Trafford.

Van Gaal may not concede it publicly, but his fellow Dutchman, Blind, could well be speaking for the manager when he admits:

"In the rest of Europe, you see stages of the game where players can have a breather or where they can have a little stroll. Here? Not for one second can you drop your head. It is box-to-box stuff from the first minute to the last. But I absolutely love it."

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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