Louis van Gaal, the Dutch mad genius who took over as Manchester United manager after their disastrous 2013-14 season, delivered a classic performance at his press conference on Tuesday.
United drew with West Ham 1-1 on Sunday with a tying goal in the 92nd minute. After the game, West Ham’s coach Sam Allardyce (a.k.a. “Big Sam”) criticised LvG’s team for resorting to the elementary tactic of booting long passes into the box in the closing stages of the match.
“I suppose in the end we couldn’t cope with long-ball United. It was just thump it forward and see what they could get, and in the end it paid off for them,” he said.
Van Gaal did not take too kindly to Allardyce’s characterization of his tactics. He popped up at his press conference on Tuesday with a hard copy of a presentation that proved his team uses a possession-based style of play, and it was West Ham who were just slugging balls into the box.
“Now, because I expected this question, I have made an interpretation of the data of this game,” he began. “I have to say that it’s not a good interpretation by Big Sam.”
It was full of charts and tables:
He said his team had 60% possession in the game, ripped West Ham for hitting more long balls to their forwards than his team, and asked the media to make copies of his PowerPoint to give to Big Sam.
He acknowledged that his team started playing more balls into the box after the 70th minute, but added, “We scored because of that also. So I think a very good decision of the manager.”
The video is fantastic (transcript below):
Said Van Gaal:
“When you have 60%, nearly 60% ball possession, do you think that you can do that with long balls? Yeah, long balls in width to switch the play. So you have to look at the data and then you see, of course we play long balls, but more long balls wide than to the strikers. A ball to the forward striker is mainly called ‘long-balls played.’
“Now, because I expected this question, I have made an interpretation of the data of this game. And then, I have to say that it’s not a good interpretation by Big Sam. It’s not so difficult also to read it. I’m sorry, we are playing ball-possession play. After 70 minutes we don’t succeed in spite of many chances in the second half, then I changed my play style, and then of course with the quality of Fellaini we played more forward balls. We scored because of that also. So I think 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 United have played 71% of the long balls to the forwards, and we 49%. So, I give you this. You can see it also. [pointing at lines on the papers] The blue ones are the good ones because long balls are mostly very difficult. That’s why I begin with the explanation of ball possession. When you have 60% ball possession you cannot play long balls only. So again, they did it with 71% and we 49%. And I give it to you. You can copy it, and then you go to Big Sam and maybe he can give a good interpretation.”
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