Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes has described some of the football played under Louis van Gaal “miserable”.
United have attracted criticism from a number of quarters for their rudimentary playing style this season, most recently by West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, who dubbed them a long-ball team.
Another ex-player, Gary Neville, raised eyebrows when he compared them to a pub side earlier this season, while Scholes, a cultured presence in United’s midfield during his playing days, has now waded into the debate.
“Part of being a Manchester United player under Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps the most important part of being one of United’s attacking players, was that when you were in possession you had to take risks in order to create goalscoring chances. It was not an option; it was an obligation,” he wrote in the Independent.
“In the periods of my career when I stopped passing the ball forward, or when I stopped looking for the risky pass that might open up a defence, the consequences were the same. The manager stopped picking me. I got back into the team when I went back to doing it the way he wanted.
“United’s history was built on attacking football, which does not always mean that the team kept clean sheets or did not concede chances. Why do you think United have had some of the best goalkeepers in the world over the years? They needed them because the team committed so many players forward.
“It does not give me any pleasure to say that at the moment I am struggling to watch Louis van Gaal’s team with any great enjoyment. They beat Burnley on Wednesday night (3-1) but it was Burnley who had by far the best of the first half.
“At times, United’s football is miserable. To beat opposing teams you have to attack, and to attack you have to take risks. Too few of the players in the current team are prepared to take those risks.”
Scholes is also at a loss to work out why Van Gaal is utilising captain Wayne Rooney in midfield.
“Wayne can play anywhere on the pitch. He is so willing, and he will give you at least a 7/10 performance most times. Against Burnley he ended up as a defensive midfielder. At other times he has been pushed out to the right-hand side, where he will look for the strikers early or switch the play.
“But if Van Gaal does not think Rooney is a better option up front than the other two then there really is a problem.”