With news of Paddy McNair’s recent hamstring injury, it puts to nine the number of players currently out injured in the Manchester United squad. Between McNair, Johnny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones that is four centre-halves that Manchester United are without in what can only be described as an injury epidemic at the club.
While the pattern of injuries seems a little obscure and with seemingly no specific meaning to any of it, it can simply be put down to a mixture of bad luck, too much work and what hints at a survival of the fittest mentality at this point from Manchester United coaches, which is being pushed from van Gaal at the very top.
Some of the complaints erupting from United’s terraces during David Moyes’ short-lived tenure were the lack of cohesion, technical ability and tactical adaptability within the squad. Moyes went down in the most docile of circumstances, his position untenable for quite some time before he was actually shown the door. He didn’t have a chance to mark out his intentions but from all accounts the players had no interesting in listening in any case.
Van Gaal’s abrupt arrival into Manchester started out with a dissection of the clubs’ commercial demands and a harsh criticism of just how unappealing such tasks can be to a squad trying to build a future together. If you didn’t know much about van Gaal prior to his appointment, you now had a fair idea of just how honest he could be in his assessment of a situation.
It was also a look into the future as to how van Gaal would conduct himself as the manager of Manchester United.
The injury crisis hasn’t overly concerned the former Netherlands coach and he has pointed out time and time again that young players can play and will succeed under his tutelage. The environment he seems to be spreading within Manchester United hinges on a “ship up, or ship out” mentality and if you can’t keep up with the constant changing of ideas, building of tactical knowledge and long-winded sessions to improve technique then perhaps your future is not at Old Trafford.
While Moyes waited for players to prove themselves and was willing to wait for players to get with his program of training and tactics, van Gaal is unwilling to drop his standards in order to facilitate a squad full of unknown and untested entities. The elongated training sessions are an example of this. Ship up or ship out.
The youngsters within the squad such as McNair, Tyler Blackett and Tom Thorpe will get chances but expect January and next summer’s transfer window to be used as a chance to bring in tried and tested veterans who can play to the highest levels of European and domestic football.
The attacking prowess is there and van Gaal is convinced that he can outscore his opponents in the next six to eight months to steal a fourth place finish, it is just a matter of the players keeping pace with the Dutchman in order to prove their worth for next season and beyond.