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Why Woodward faces LVG dilemma over Man Utd buying plans

COMMENT: That clipboard's bad enough. But now we're hearing about Louie's notebook?!

Since Tuesday in Wolfsburg, the leaks from Carrington have become a shower - and it's all dropping on Louis van Gaal.

The Manchester United manager's constant sniping at his players is hurting morale, we're now hearing. And he keeps every mistake made by every individual - in training and on the matchday - in an infamous notebook. The players, we've learned, live in fear of being singled out by the manager, who insists on critiquing them in front of the entire squad.

But Wolfsburg wasn't about morale or confidence. United's Champions League elimination was set up in August, when Van Gaal offloaded Javier Hernandez to Bayer Leverkusen and Robin van Persie to Fenerbahce. This wasn't the United board pressuring the manager to trim his squad. This was Van Gaal's philosophy at work. A small, tight-knit group of senior players. That's how he works. We all knew this. Ed Woodward, the club's vice-chairman knew this. If he could get away with it, Van Gaal would happily go through a season with an unchanged XI.

And then he compounds it all by allowing James Wilson to move away on-loan to Brighton. A deal was done just days before captain Wayne Rooney broke down with an ankle injury. Chris Hughton, the Seagulls manager, couldn't believe his luck. And Wilson? Well, he's not just off the mark for his new club, but already looks too good for Championship level.

In the meantime, United traveled to Germany with just one fit striker, 20 year-old Anthony Martial. There was only ever going to be one result.

And now the spotlight is shone. The scrutiny has really kicked off. Van Gaal is finding himself questioned like never before. Both from the outside and within Carrington.

The notebook revelation also involved Memphis Depay. PSV Eindhoven fans are baffled by his problems this season. Not just at United, but also with the Oranje. But we've learned that barely weeks into his United career, Memphis was pulled aside by Van Gaal's assistants and ordered to 'ditch the tricks'. His style was just too flamboyant for the paint-by-numbers system of the manager. He could either stick to the gameplan, or go the same way as Angel di Maria and Adnan Januzaj.

Is it any wonder he's struggled since those opening weeks? That brace against Club Brugge is now a distant memory. Like what we've seen from Martial, it's becoming clear Memphis has also had the individuality knocked out of him. Of course he's going to get around in silly hats and lime shoes. It's the only way the lad can now express himself!

Watching Memphis clearly battle to find his way in Van Gaal's system, just as Martial is now experiencing, has to be concerning for Woodward leading up to next month's transfer window. Van Gaal was clear last week: United need to keep spending if they're return to the top. But does Woodward, today, have the same faith in Van Gaal the players' coach as he did 12 months ago?

The discarded Radamel Falcao, Angel di Maria and Victor Valdes - and the millions blown on Van Gaal's inability to work with them - is bad enough. But what of Memphis and Martial? Indeed, has any player signed under Van Gaal actually improved since moving to Old Trafford? Daley Blind? Ander Herrera? Anyone?

Which is some dilemma for Woodward.

Van Gaal is safe. The only way the two parties will split is if he chooses to walk away. And with another £7 million due next season - his last in the game - it's difficult seeing the Dutchman leaving his pension with such a shortfall.

But Woodward must consider who will he be buying for next month - and next summer. Will it be for Van Gaal or Ryan Giggs. And the bigger question is: will those new arrivals be in better shape by the time Giggs gets his hands on them?

Up until now, Giggs has kept his own counsel. Being the dutiful assistant. But tribalfootball.com has been informed by sources around Giggs that a "tipping point" is nearing. And this was before the Wolfsburg result.

Giggs knows he has the full support of Woodward. But while he's been praised by Van Gaal for his pre-match opposition analysis, there is a feeling, not just in Manchester, but also in Holland, that he's being kept at arm's length by the manager.

Giggs isn't seeking more influence. But he wants to be heard, particularly when he sees the likes of Memphis, Martial and Januzaj all struggling - and convinced they need not be with a different approach.

Whether today's chatter about the Swansea City job is just talk, it only adds to the perception of unrest now swirling around the club.

He's not halfway through his agreed three-year deal. But Van Gaal's methods - and the doubt they've created on the training pitch and in the boardroom - has the club in a state of flux.

With January almost upon us, will Woodward - indeed can Woodward - trust another multi-million pound spree to his manager?


It's a disgrace. An absolute disgrace, the way Nick Powell has been portrayed in the press since his surprise appearance in Wolfsburg.

Apparently, Nick was wrong to blank waiting reporters in the mixed zone after seeing his first bit of action for United in almost 18 months. He was branded "self-entitled" and "arrogant" for his actions. Which is absolutely ridiculous.

Here's a young man. At 21. Who's barely been involved in first team training at United this season, never mind actually making it onto the pitch. And yet, after such a disastrous night, he's supposed to be the face of the result? You're kidding, aren't ya?

Self-entitled? The lad who worked his way through at Crewe Alexandra? C'mon.

And even if he did give us all a swerve on Tuesday night, so what? This is the same Nick Powell we all had pegged as being ready to chuck in his career just a couple of months ago. We had him disillusioned with the game and his fitness problems. He was basically in meltdown mode.

So you fancy any right-minded person would afford Nick some room to give us all two fingers after fighting his way back this week.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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