Search icon


30th Aug 2015

Man United: The unstoppable red wave that turned into a ripple

Wave goodbye...

Nooruddean Choudry

Time and tide wait for no man. Things change and eras come to an end.

It is a lesson that Fergie’s children have had to learn very quickly. However, there are certain things that stay the same. There’s a word for it, and it is identity. Moods and fashions don’t alter who or what you fundamentally are.

Manchester United v Newcastle United - Premier League : News Photo

Manchester United represent many things, both good and bad. A great many of those predate Sir Alex Ferguson, but there is no denying that he drew up the modern template of what the club should represent.

In the main that was fast, flowing, dynamic football, played with heart and passion. United were quite often equal or inferior to the opposition in terms of pure talent. But they were never second in regards spirit and mentality.

Looking back, there are certain team selections during Fergie’s reign that beggar belief. And yet the record books show that they were, more often than not, victorious. It’s because they were infected by the same angry hatred of losing as their stubborn, truculent manager.

If that sounds overly emotive and unquantifiable, that’s because it is. Ferguson remains strangely underrated for his tactical nous, but what set him and his relentless devils apart was their unquenchable desire to overcome.

Things have changed. Fergie is now long gone, and Louis van Gaal is absolutely and completely the boss now. Whereas Moyes tried to hold on to some remnants of the old magic (and ultimately failed), the Dutchman has his own vision – his own philosophy.

Everything is so much more deliberate, rehearsed and controlled now. Impulse and spontaneity have given way to restraint and temperance. It would be doing Fergie a disservice to paint his spell as some halcyon era of free expression, but at his heart he was an animal of instinct.

Champions league play-offs - 'Club Brugge v Manchester United' : News Photo

Van Gaal is different. The sight of Ander Herrera cutting a dash from box to box in his maiden season gave the boss palpitations. The Basque – like everyone else – had to learn to curtail his natural exuberance in order to fit the carefully laid out model.

Fundamental to that is concept is control – controlled pace, controlled movement, and above all, controlled instinct. The idea is to leave nothing to chance; if you dominate the ball and the tempo with sufficient dedication, you shall prove victorious.

Unfortunately for Van Gaal, and thankfully for everyone who loves the batsh*t insanity of the game, football is not a science. More often than not, especially in this country, spirit and daring win out. Conservatives only win at the polling stations.

Swansea City v Manchester United - Premier League : News Photo

It is something that Fergie’s peers and rivals know only too well. You could rarely control or constrict that United for ninety(-seven) minutes. They would find a way of breaking you down. Not through cerebral ingenuity or death by a thousand passes, but through sheer force of will.

Entering the final moments of a game against Fergie’s United, even two or three goals to the good was walking into a crimson-coloured sh*tstorm. It was wave after wave of red attack, with all the rage and ferocity of a biblical tsunami. It was near impossible to resist.

It is now a distant memory. Swansea away proved that beyond question. Whilst in the lead, Van Gaal’s United dominated possession and looked comfortable. After the home side levelled and quickly went ahead, United dominated possession and looked comfortable.

Swansea City v Manchester United - Premier League : News Photo

In the old days, such a reaction would have been tantamount to treachery. Under the new order, it was perfectly acceptable – something to be applauded. In the eyes of Van Gaal, his charges remained unfazed and continued to action his plan. All that was missing was a finishing touch.

Who knows if the Dutchman will eventually prevail in turning philosophy into trophies at Old Trafford. Perhaps he will. Regardless, the supporters must now accept that the unstoppable red wave is history. Games will not be won in that heart-stopping fashion again.

There will no doubt be last-gasp moments and thrilling finales, but they will never again be part of an irresistible Alamo charge. Those days are over. The identity has changed.