For the past few weeks, Manchester United and in particular Marouane Fellaini have been coming under criticism for a ‘direct’ style of play. In other words, trying to get the best out of there 25 million pound Belgian beauty that he who shall not be named, in Manchester anyway, had left for the services of Mr. Van Gaal. So my question is, if you’ve got it, why not flaunt it?
The negativity towards direct or ‘long ball’ football is nothing new as far as the Premier League are concerned. Sam Allardyce would not be best pleased if everything he has ever worked towards was shot down by journalistic views of the direct game being born in the era of Louis Van Gaal. So what’s the difference in that? Why is it, for want of a better phrase, ‘suitable’ for lower sides to carry out these tactics but not the biggest club on Earth? Do we not want so called ambassadors of the English game to be playing such barbaric tactics when taken to the field.
I am far from Manchester United’s biggest fan, coming from Blackburn in East Lancashire, United are up there as sides you have to love to hate. But I do feel they are under heavy fire from the press for simply diversifying to what they have in their ranks. Dare for me to say this, but it could be argued that Fellaini has had more of an impact this season in a Manchester United shirt than a certain Mr. Falcao. I grant you, I may be shooting from the hip and United season ticket holders, feel free to shoot me down here but as a Blackburn Rovers season ticket holder, this isn’t new territory for me. The Allardyce years as Ewood Park were very successful indeed and now sitting in mid-table of the Championship, we see this ‘tactic’ carried out by sides week in week out. I hope you noticed I used to the word tactic. That’s what I think it is.
Sides are only as good as what they have within their ranks. It’s a tactical decision to play the likes of, Fellaini at United, Carroll at West Ham and Crouch at Stoke to name just a few as examples, it’s just that teams adapt to fit in one player to the system. That’s where I think people have the issue. The accommodation of players to fit in to the team. But, I don’t agree with the argument that this is ‘negative’ football. What is negative football? There is no sole definition for this term. I do hope that tactics and negativity are used as different terms when it comes to direct football. There’s nothing negative about a side and the wrong end of the table setting up to play long ball football when away from home at a side at the right end of the table. Isn’t that just plain common sense? For them it’s about not losing the game, and having an outlet with the off chance of nicking something.
For me, this is tactics but it brandished negative by the big sides when they do indeed nick something. Football is about using what you have in your armoury, and I think that’s what Manchester United and LVG are doing. The team performance should be in line for any criticism not the individual, Fellaini is doing a job the manager wants him to do. I find it difficult to criticize the player for this but I’m sure the press and football ‘purists’ will some how find a way.