As we reported
, 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
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.
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.
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
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.