Paul Parker: ‘Fear of God’ from Louis van Gaal inhibiting Manchester United stars
Louis van Gaal must drop his grudges and allow his players more freedom if he hopes to see the Manchester United squad smiling again, writes Paul Parker.
Sir Alex Ferguson knew how to manage his players. As his side changed, he too had to alter his management style. He did – and that’s why he was able to drag Manchester United to the Premier League title in 2013. Did he enjoy it? No. But he did it anyway.
When Louis van Gaal arrived at United, I thought he too would be flexible. But we now have a situation where there are a lot of discontented players and we have to question why they are playing badly.
I look at Anthony Martial and worry for him. He looks like a boy who doesn’t smile anymore. He doesn’t look like he’s enjoying himself. The form Memphis Depay is showing hasn’t just happened because he’s playing in the Premier League. That boy probably feels like a scapegoat. He’s in a country relatively close to where he’s from, but feeling a million miles away.
Ander Herrera is hugely popular with the fans because he makes things happen. Everyone loves to see players like that, but he’s barely playing and is probably unsettled. These players need freedom; they need to enjoy themselves.
Looking further back, why did Angel Di Maria – arguably Real Madrid’s best player before he left them – start off great at United after a very good World Cup, then drop his performance by about 80 per cent? It was nothing to do with house being broken into. You can deal with that.
Van Gaal puts the fear of God into players. It has to be his way. He selfishly manages the team. And no one enjoys it.
He may be a successful manager, but he must learn – even at his age – to become a good man manager. At the moment we have to say he’s not man managing that team. All those players he’s got are not bad players, and they’ve not played negative football all their lives.
He’s being incredibly stubborn. Any player who doesn’t conform to what he wants is chopped. He looks for a player who’s made a mistake, then drops them for the next game.
Under Van Gaal, every player who has had one bad game has been left out… except for Wayne Rooney. He’s got to learn not to bear grudges. A player knows when they mistake. What they need is an arm around them, not exclusion. What message is that sending out to the rest, other than: ‘that could be me’.
Players are human, not machines. If the rule is ‘one mistake and you’re out’ then a fear culture takes over and players are scared to pass forward, to run forward.
That’s wrong. It’s affecting the team and it’s not good for Rooney either. He wants to be one of the lads – but how can he be, when he keeps getting played and everyone else is thinking: ‘Wayne hasn’t had a good 90 minutes all season, why is he still playing?’
Van Gaal has to be flexible with his philosophy. It can’t be his way or no way. He’s asking players to change their methods to suit him, so why can’t he change too? I’m not demanding United play this way or that, I’m just asking for the players to have a little bit of freedom. You only get the best out of people if they’re willing to give you 100 per cent. When you see people smiling, it’s amazing how much more they will do. There’s not enough players smiling in that Manchester United team – and there’s a little bit of a fear factor attached to mistakes now.
Would you want Van Gaal to have another pot of gold in the summer? It doesn’t matter how good the players are if they’re not managed properly. At the moment there are a lot of very, very good players at Manchester United… and the best isn’t being got out of them.