Van Gaal Hits Back at 'Long-ball' Jibe

Published: 11th February 2015 09:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th February 2015 09:10 AM   |  A+A-

Van Gaal_AP

Louis van Gaal has evoked memories of Rafael Benitez's infamous "facts" rant by producing a four-page statistical analysis of Manchester United's draw against West Ham in response to his team being labelled "long-ball United" by Sam Allardyce.

Van Gaal, speaking at his press briefing ahead of his team's Premier League match against Burnley tonight, bristled at Allardyce's suggestions that United managed a 1-1 draw at Upton Park on Sunday only because they hit long balls to Marouane Fellaini.

Fellaini, a late substitute, contributed in the build-up to Daley Blind's equaliser, but the direct nature of United's play was singled out as a key factor in the team's late revival by Allardyce, the West Ham manager.

However, while admitting that his team played long balls in the latter stages, Van Gaal, in his televised riposte, also insisted that West Ham were even more direct than his team. He brandished the ProZone data in a similar fashion to former Liverpool manager Benitez when delivering his "facts" to support claims against Sir Alex Ferguson in January 2009."Because I expected this question, I have made an interpretation of the data for this game," the United manager said. "And I have to say that it is not a good interpretation from Big Sam.

 I am sorry, but we are playing ball possession play. After 70 minutes [against West Ham] we did not succeed, in spite of many chances in the second half, so then I changed my playing style. Then, of course, with the quality of Fellaini we played more forward balls and we scored from that, so I think it was a very good decision of the manager.

"But when you see overall the long ball, and what is the percentage of that, then West Ham have played 71 per cent of long balls to the forwards [from their attacking moves]. We played 49 per cent [long balls].

"When a colleague of mine [Allardyce] is saying this kind of thing then, yeah, you have to see the data and you have to put the data in the right context. I give it [data] to you, you can copy it and then maybe you can go to Big Sam and he will get a good interpretation."

Van Gaal has previously used prepared props in United press conferences, namely to offer a medical explanation of injuries or, as he did last Friday, to refer to a quote to illustrate his message.

The use of the statistical data to defend himself against Allardyce's claims offered further evidence, however, of Van Gaal's thin skin when subjected to criticism of his methods, with the Dutchman defiantly rejecting interrogation of his approach from all outsiders, including Allardyce, the media or United supporters.

"I think the media is also coming to the match and you have a lot of opinion about me, or the game, or the players and now you say that you have no opinion," Van Gaal said, after a television reporter declined to respond when asked whether he believed United used long-ball

tactics. When you have 60 per cent ball possession do you think that you can do that with long balls?

"Yeah, long balls, in the width, to switch the play. You have to look at the data and then you will see that we did play long balls, but long balls wide, rather than to the striker."

United face Burnley tonight with statistics showing the two teams to have hit more long balls than any other Premier League side.

However, with his team scoring just seven goals in their past six league games, prompting criticism of a cautious approach, Van Gaal insisted he was happy with United's performances, at the same time as admitting they can play better.

"I think we have played attractive games and less attractive games, with every club I think, so there's no discussion," Van Gaal said.

"You have to improve and every team has to improve, which is why we are training. I am happy with the results, but I also think we can improve, which is also the process.

"We have talked about already from my first day, but we have to improve. In this world you have to win and play attractive, but that's not so simple. We do our best." Van Gaal, who confirmed that

19-year-old defender Paddy McNair had signed a contract extension until June 2017, hinted at a return to a forward role for Wayne Rooney with the -captain's goal drought now extending to eight matches - his worst run at United since 2005-06, when he went 12 games without scoring.

"When you play him [Rooney] in midfield you are not always in the situation to score," Van Gaal said. "So when you say he is not -scoring then, of course, midfielders are not scoring too much.

"He is not in the front three, he is in the back three of the midfield. It [Rooney's position] is dependent on the circumstances."

Meanwhile, Van Gaal has denied a charge of misconduct in relation to media comments after last month's FA Cup tie at Cambridge United and has requested a personal hearing on a date to be confirmed.


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