It’s probably better to be lucky than good, but Louis van Gaal may be both. Manchester United face bitter rivals Liverpool this weekend on the back of five consecutive wins, but any United fan, and they’ll say recent results have involved more than a little luck (aside from luck with injuries, that is). At times, the wins seem to come in spite of the manager’s tactics.
Although United are sitting pretty in third place in England’s Premier League, some of van Gaal’s decision-making has been baffling. But it all makes sense if you make one assumption: The Dutch manager may be getting a high. A lot.
The Dutch are famously accepting of recreational drug use, and van Gaal is old enough that he can get away with trying almost anything for “medicinal purposes.” While we don’t have proof this is actually happening, some of United’s recent peaks may have linked to some peaks of van Gaal’s own.
Circumstantial evidence is a powerful thing. Consider these are five van Gaal decisions in light of our little hypothesis:
Playing Marouane Fellaini ahead of Ander Herrera
As a manager schooled in the Dutch tradition of intelligent ball movement and technical nous, Lucky Louis has often said that he believes in playing entertaining, attacking soccer. Why then does he persist with playing Fellaini ahead of Herrera in midfield?
Herrera has probably been United’s best midfielder this season, adding not just smart passing but drive and bite to a midfield severely lacking in those qualities in recent years. Fellaini, meanwhile, is useful mostly in scrappy games when United doesn’t have control of the ball. Except that if Fellaini wasn’t playing in midfield, they would probably have control of the ball in the first place.
This is classic pothead logic. The only thing that heavy weed smokers love more than baked goods is circular reasoning.
Earlier this season, Van Gaal felt he didn’t have the quality in central defense to play four at the back, so he adjusted his playing system to best suit the available players. Makes sense, right? Except, he decided to change to system that required three central defenders.
Have you ever written down an idea that totally made sense when you were high only to discover the next day that it was a bunch of scribbled gibberish? This is LVG’s version of that.
Constantly switching formations
After starting the season playing three at the back, then switching to a system with four defenders and a midfield diamond that accommodated all the best available players, van Gaal switched systems again, before recently reverting to the 3-5-2 set-up. His explanation on record is that he wanted more solidity in the side, but “solidity” isn’t the term you would use to describe United’s defending at any point this season.
The real reason? Drug-induced paranoia. Just like that time when your college roommate had a bad trip and hid under his bunk for two hours so that the CIA couldn’t hear his thoughts.
Appointing Wayne Rooney as captain
At his best, Wayne Rooney is a very, very good forward. At his worst, he’s ticking time bomb with the first touch of a brick wall.
When Rooney’s touch is letting him down, he has a tendency to get a bit shout-y and scissors-tackle-y. This was evident in the 5-3 defeat to Leicester City when Rooney responded to conceding a goal by shouting furiously at the young defenders behind him. Naturally, it was Rooney himself who gave the ball away in the build up.
Why make such a man captain? Well, look at him. That is a face to give you nightmares. Now imagine what that face looks like after you’ve just dropped acid. Scary shit, man.
Playing Antonio Valencia at fullback
There are certain food choices that only make sense with a little bit of THC in your system. You know you’ll regret it the next day, and you would never do such a thing sober, but you can’t fight the temptation to hit up Taco Bell when you’re buzzed.
Antonio Valencia is the Taco Bell of right backs, which is to say that Valencia is a “right back” in the same way that Taco Bell is “Mexican food.” All the ingredients are there, but … come on. He can’t defend in one-on-one situations, and he frequently gets caught out of position.
Trying him there makes a certain amount of sense, because he looks the part. He’s strong, he’s quick, and as a winger he would always work hard tracking back for the team. But he’s essentially a one-trick pony who forgot his one trick three years ago. He’s now been a crap back-up right back under three successive managers, but for some reason, van Gaal has persisted with him in that position. He knows it’s unhealthy and hard to stomach, but he could just kill for a chalupa right now.
Louis van Gaal is an accomplished, vastly experienced manager, who has a proven record of success at the top level. If anything, his achievements are even more impressive in light of his (alleged) frequent drug use. And who can blame him? Wouldn’t we all like to be high at work, and get away with it?
It’s been a fun ride so far, and I can’t wait until he discovers ayahuasca.