Evolution under Louis van Gaal – a look at four United players’ progress

(Photo: Guardian)

(Photo: Guardian)

It was always advised to give Louis van Gaal time. Have patience, trust him and eventually it will come good. His players now appear to fully understand his style of play and the team’s passing and intensity is at a level not seen since sporadic periods during the last years of Alex Ferguson’s tyrannical reign of bloodshed.

Many have even credited van Gaal with helping some United players develop and evolve this season. Chris Smalling, among others, has looked like a different man, nay, species since the former Bayern coach’s methods truly took hold.

“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.”

Charles Darwin said that, whether or not it was a thinly veiled dig at Moyes is still unknown. But in this spirit, we will now look at how these four Manchester United players have evolved under their new manager.

CHRIS SMALLING

(Photo: Manchester Evening News)

Eyes like the corpse of Tywin Lannister. (Photo: Manchester Evening News)

The dead-eyed defender never truly impressed under either Alex Ferguson, David Moyes, or Ryan Giggs. Under van Gaal though, not only has he grown a nifty goatee, he also appears to have beefed up a touch. He has evolved to be able to deal with flying objects coming towards his head, a great development from previous years. He has also appeared to develop an ability to remain conscious throughout every game. He still looks like his eyes are painted on though so not all positive.

ASHLEY YOUNG

(Photo: RTE)

May or may not rely on bird faeces for his powers. (Photo: RTE)

Ashley Young is a remarkable case study in this regard and no doubt many theses will be written about his development this season in years to come. Young is the footballing equivalent of the thousand monkeys finally writing Shakespeare. From bad diver to okay wing back to one of United’s most influential players, all in the space of a few months. His inability to fly holds him back but the fact he has evolved to the point of being able to run without falling constantly is a big plus.

PHIL JONES

Jones has developed a new and unseen level of lucidity into his game. (Photo: Daily Mail)

Jones has developed a new and previously unseen level of lucidity into his game. (Photo: Daily Mail)

Along with Smalling, Jones really has come a long way this season. For many years he appeared like the type of child who wasn’t allowed to have pets for fear he would accidentally crush them, Jones has developed more a finite touch this year. His tackling has improved immeasurably but it would seem he has not evolved to the point where he can recognise danger or feel pain. This is much to his detriment as it regularly results in avoidable injuries. Over time, one can reasonably expect that Jones will eventually kill either himself or someone else on the football pitch.

MAROUANE FELLAINI

Marouane Fellaini - kind of like a tree. (Photo: Guardian)

Marouane Fellaini – kind of like a tree. (Photo: Guardian)

Van Gaal’s greatest achievement – Fellaini sits at the top of United’s like some sort of mad scientist’s monster, forever bounding, disobeying the laws of thermodynamics as he contests for the ball. He’s an anomaly in so much every one of his limbs seems to have at least one elbow attached to it. Incredibly effective for United this season, it’s still difficult to gauge how much he has evolved, often appearing like a large caveman thrust into the bright lights of modern professional sport, leaving a path of destruction and feathers wherever he goes. Sadly, he appears to have hooves rather than feet, making his passing less than acceptable.

So there you have it. Van Gaal has worked wonders with some of United’s players this year, some acquiring cognitive abilities they never previously had, others becoming sentient after years of docility. These results indicate why van Gaal is a big believer in technology in football but also show the limits of evolution. Give the man a thousand years and yes, he may bring about some truly outstanding changes but as it is, his squad’s progression is still very impressive.

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