There was nothing ‘bizarre’ about what Louis van Gaal said to the media on journalist, writes Mark Holmes, who also offers thoughts on Arsene Wenger and John Terry.
VAN GAAL TREATMENT A DISGRACE
According to both the Daily Mail and Daily Star, Louis van Gaal had a ‘bizarre rant’ after Manchester United’s draw at Chelsea.
The full transcript can be read here, but the question which led to the exchange went as follows: ‘Although you dropped points, the performances are improving. Do you think that’s important as the club is trying to replace you, the fact you’re trying to put in the performances which show you might have a value to the club?’
Note the words ‘as the club is trying to replace you’. Said in such a matter of fact way, as though nobody, not even Van Gaal, could possibly dispute the fact that United want to sack him. But as the Dutchman pointed out on Friday, it would not be the first occasion the press had got it wrong if stories that Jose Mourinho has already held talks about taking over at Old Trafford are proven to be false.
Remember when he had two games to save his job? United took only two points from those games, at Stoke City and against Chelsea, yet Van Gaal remained in place. Remember when he was about to quit in January after a defeat to Southampton?
Despite clearly receiving assurances from the United hierarchy that his job is not under threat, Van Gaal has had to deal with almost constant suggestions from the press over the past four months that he would soon be out of work.
Then, after another decent performance at Chelsea on Sunday, the 64-year-old again faced a question about United trying to replace him. ‘Well, the club aren’t denying it,’ said the journalist.
This is the sort of nonsense Van Gaal is having to deal with on an almost weekly basis, yet despite responding in a perfectly reasonable manner he is accused of going on a ‘bizarre rant’. The Daily Mirror’s back page even refers to him as ‘Mr Angry’.
Van Gaal clearly hasn’t done as good a job as he would have hoped this season, but the treatment of him by the media has been nothing short of a disgrace.
If only he were British…
WENGER LET HIMSELF DOWN WITH FLAMINI COMMENTS
There is not a football manager in a world that is not a hypocrite. We all know that.
But Arsene Wenger, a manager that has been so outspoken about the need for players to consider their opponents when going into tackles, really should have thought twice before defending Mathieu Flamini’s two-footed lunge on Sunday.
The Arsenal boss was certainly right to say that Flamini had gone for the ball and not Gosling, but to offer that as a defence suggests he believes the same cannot be said of every player. Yet there isn’t a professional footballer out there that makes a challenge with the intention of playing anything other than the ball. Such players simply don’t exist today.
In Flamini’s defence, he actually won the ball, but that is irrelevant according to today’s rules: ‘Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind, using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.’
Wenger himself had this to say on two-footed lunges back in 2013: “For me, the tackle facing the player is one leg on the ground, and the other leg is bent, where you can see that you give a pass when you intercept the ball – the guy that jumps in with two legs doesn’t know where he finishes.”
Yet, discussing a red card shown to Flamini for – you guessed it – a two-footed lunge tackle in 2014, Wenger offered a different view: “To me it looked harsh. He got the ball. At some stage we all have all the feet off the ground.
“If you say every time a guy makes two-footed tackle its red, he deserved a red. If you say it was a violent tackle, I would say no.”
It was the line Wenger went down again after Flamini’s challenge on Sunday, with the Gunners boss even suggesting the free-kick could have gone the other way.
Nobody would have paid much attention to a similar comment by another manager, but if Wenger has campaigned against dangerous tackles for years and has made it clear on several occasions that he expects his players to show restraint in not endangering the safety of opponents when challenging for the ball.
By condoning another Flamini lunge, Wenger has proven, not for the first time, he is not as high up that moral ground as he would have you believe.
“If they jump in they [can] completely destroy an opponent” – Arsene Wenger.
TERRY WILL STAY AT CHELSEA
Prediction: John Terry will still be a Chelsea player come the start of next season.
The media have lapped up Terry’s claim that he is “not going to retire at Chelsea”, but the club themselves have made it clear that the 35-year-old could yet be offered a new contract should the new manager want to keep him at Stamford Bridge.
And, let’s be honest, he probably will. After all, what better way to get the fans on side by tying down the captain, leader and legend in your first major act at Chelsea.
There is an argument to say the Blues should take the decision out of the new man’s hands by signing up Terry to a new deal before making any appointment, but it is also not too hard to understand their thinking in wanting to let the new boss make a decision on a player that may not fit into his preferred style of play.
What happens if the new man wants to play a high line, for example? Terry would then risk a season either out of the team or in it and struggling, as he did in the brief Andre Villas-Boas era. Even without considering the possibility that a new manager might prefer not to have the long-standing influence of Terry in the dressing room, leaving the decision on his future on the back burner makes perfect sense.
A cynic might suggest Terry’s public statement was a ploy to pressure the club into giving him a new deal, either before or after the appointment of a new manager, but the likelihood is that such tactics were not required.
Terry is not the perfect player and at 35 his best years are clearly behind rather than ahead of him, but it would take a weak manager to want him gone for fear of his influence – and a poor one not to realise the former England captain does not still have something to offer the Blues.
Nobody seems to be even considering the possibility, but anyone looking to make a bit of money would do well to have a flutter on Terry still being at Stamford Bridge come August.