It's Not Been All Bad! Why Man Utd Boss Louis van Gaal Deserves Praise


Take a deep breath Manchester United fans, for what follows could be construed as praise for Louis van Gaal.

We'll start with Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, the impressive 19-year-old who has been at United since 2003 and recently elevated himself seamlessly into the first-team set-up.

"CBJ", as he'd be called if he was the Sussex and England cricketer his name conjures up, has been a roaring Van Gaal success story since making his debut in November.

Injuries to Luke Shaw, Marcus Rojo and others opened the gate, but Borthwick-Jackson has taken big graceful strides through it and his manager clearly trusts him to keep walking the walk.

See his start against Chelsea as evidence, which though it did include some teachable moments (see Willian putting him on the turf), was ultimately more progress made.

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Reports suggest Borthwick-Jackson may already have agreed a new deal at United, which would continue the club's long-standing faith in him. He was six when he first joined their youth ranks and now we see him as a technically proficient, mature and dynamic full-back who may prove hard to dislodge when Shaw eventually returns from injury.

Van Gaal is not afraid to give youth a chance. It's not your name or your transfer fee that dictates whether you make his grade; it's purely your ability to perform. There's something to admire in that and plenty to inspire the next generation of United teenagers.

Van Gaal said he was "proud" of Borthwick-Jackson after the game at Stamford Bridge, and there has to be a certain amount of credit given to United's manager for nurturing the player and instilling the confidence required.

The same goes for Jesse Lingard, another United schoolboy who has beaten the odds this season in rising to the first team, after his arrival all those years ago as a seven-year-old.

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As United went out and signed wide forwards in Adnan Januzaj (initially on youth terms in 2011, before being elevated to the first team in 2013), Angel Di Maria (2014) and then Memphis Depay (2015), Lingard must have watched on wondering how on earth he was going to get a game. He was already battling established names Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia for a spot on the flank.

Hope arrived on United's pre-season tour of America, where he was given time by Van Gaal and impressed on the right flank. Lingard resisted pushing for a loan move, presumably encouraged by his manager, and he's now being rewarded for his patience.

Memphis was supposed to be United's firecracker this season but he's anything but and found himself playing for the Under-21s this week in an attempt to regain some momentum. Van Gaal has rightly turned to Lingard to fill his boots and the 23-year-old has repaid his faith.

It's easy to focus on Memphis' underwhelming contribution thus far, but consider Van Gaal's aptitude in ensuring Lingard stayed around. He clearly saw something that's been playing out on the pitch of late.

The same is true of Borthwick-Jackson, who Van Gaal could have ignored by signing another left-back in January.

It won't be lost on United fans that Borthwick-Jackson and Lingard, both local lads come good, combined for a goal against Stoke recently. Van Gaal is blooding the youngsters at Old Trafford and, whether he's around next season or not, they'll be a legacy in that.

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Van Gaal has fallen short in terms of delivering attacking football and results this season, but judging by what we hear from his players he has maintained the respect of his dressing room. Perhaps some of that is down to a clear meritocracy with no room for playing favourites and the chance for any player to stake a claim.

He might not have matched United teams gone by for style, but the way Van Gaal has encouraged the progress of Borthwick-Jackson and Lingard is very much playing to the club's tradition.

If Van Gaal leaves in the summer there will also be generous inheritance for his successor in the evolution of Chris Smalling, who has developed into a highly equipped central defender on the Dutchman's watch.

Smalling has spoken to Van Gaal's attention to detail and his constant communication with the players. Whatever he's doing with Smalling is working and the 26-year-old has become a more commanding, composed and controlling defender as a result.

As a final piece of praise for Van Gaal, who could use a lift you'd imagine, how about the resurgence of Wayne Rooney of late? Rooney has always been internally driven, but might we argue Van Gaal's calm belief and human touch has played a part in getting his leading man back in the goals?

Soon enough he'll be gone, but let's not be kidding ourselves that Van Gaal has brought nothing of good to Old Trafford.

 

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