Commentary

Man United's Porous PR Stunt

As we reported yesterday, Manchester United suddenly found itself in the news for the wrong reasons, as the British press on Thursday claimed that several senior Manchester United players had approached coach Louis van Gaal earlier this season about his stifling coaching style. Well, by the end of day Friday, the kerfuffle seemed to evaporate into thin air, as van Gaal, speaking ahead of United’s home clash against Liverpool on Saturday, calmly gave his explanation for the alleged episode, which was later followed by the surprise announcement that goalkeeper David De Gea, who spent the entire summer transfer window openly pining for a move to Real Madrid, had suddenly signed a four-year contract extension.

Hmmm...

Please forgive your columnist for sounding skeptical here, but to Off The Post, it’s all a bit too much. Perhaps Man United should consult the Jose Mourinho playbook on PR -- at least the Special One tries to throw everyone off his trail by saying confusing, if not crazy, things -- but United here is, well, being a little too transparent with its press manipulation.

In fact, as OTP writes this, a report has just emerged in the Mirror claiming that captain Wayne Rooney was not on the bus to United’s team hotel on Thursday, sparking fears that England’s newly-crowned all-time leading scorer could be absent for Saturday’s crucial clash with his team’s most hated rival. One wonders what that could be about?

In any event, let’s back up for a second.

The damage control on Friday started with van Gaal’s press conference in which he asserted that Rooney and vice-captain Michael Carrick had approached with concerns over the team’s mood. According to the Dutchman, the pair simply said that the team, which had been largely overhauled over the summer, felt “flat” and needed a boost. Van Gaal then went on to claim that he has a “superb relationship” with his squad and that the British press, as usual, is barking up the wrong tree. He also went to great pains to explain how the Red Devils’ loyal fans have taken to him and then he went on to say glowing things about Rooney, calling him “the best captain” and such, adding that club EVP and transfer czar Ed Woodward, who has been heavily criticized for brokering the expensive transfer of Anthony Martial from AS Monaco, is “the best of his age.”

Well, what a relief for United fans! And what an amazing U-turn! But wait, the good news continued, as that U-turn was followed by the equally improbable U-turn of De Gea signing a new four-year deal, effectively killing the Spaniard’s hopes of a future move to the club he had courted openly all summer.

Doesn’t it all just sound a little too tightly controlled? One can’t help but wonder what United had to say/do/threaten/pay to get De Gea to sign that deal?  Incidentally, Friday also marks the day when former United defender Gary Neville comes out with his column for the Daily Telegraph. Well, unsurprisingly, his latest opinion piece is about the unrest that was reported on Thursday. Among other things, Neville, who is one of the game’s most well-respected pundits, says: "I have real concerns that Louis van Gaal has fallen out with numerous players over the last year. Some of those players he actually brought in himself. It hardly bodes well when players are brought through the door by a manager who then discards or marginalizes them."

Neville then goes on to address the very problem brought up in the Thursday reports -- namely, that the club’s creative players feel stifled by van Gaal’s tactics. "I see players in fear of capital punishment if they give it away through any element of risk or expression in the final third," he says, adding: “They look like they will suffer if they make an error. That is a concern when you have so many expressive players out on the pitch.”

Neville’s assessment leaves United fans, observers, and the rest with a stark choice to make. So, who are you going to believe: a manager likely towing the company line and whom everyone but himself says is under-fire, or one of the club’s most decorated former players, who likely retains more than a few ties with his former teammates (not to mention the backroom staff), and who also has no reason not to tell us exactly what he thinks is really going on?

The choice is yours

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3 comments about "Man United's Porous PR Stunt ".
  1. Allan Lindh, September 11, 2015 at 11:18 p.m.

    When he dumped Angel de Maria it was clear he had his HUHA. Another year and adios.

  2. Lou vulovich, September 11, 2015 at 11:52 p.m.

    Nothing unusual about LGV philosophy it sounds
    like 90% of coaches today, from U12 all the way to the professional and international level. Clubs spend 150-200 million on players and than they have some idiot from the sidelines pulling strings for 90 minutes. We will see fewer creative players as time goes by as youth soccer is filled with LGV'S all over the world.

  3. Santiago 1314 replied, September 12, 2015 at 11:34 a.m.

    You are Correct Lou...We are already getting this...Tiny Minnow National Teams are Competing with and even Beating the "Big Boys"...As I have stated previously... The Last World Cup, You could Change 9 Field Players and Shirts to the Opposition and Not Notice the Difference...All Cookie Cutter Players...

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