In Depth

'Dull, turgid' Man Utd: will fans turn on Van Gaal?

The Dutch manager remains popular at Old Trafford but four goalless draws in seven games do not bode well

Manchester United lie second in the Premier League and will go to the top if they can beat the current surprise leaders Leicester on Saturday.

However, there are signs of growing unrest at Old Trafford. United have scored just six goals in the last eight games and, according to the Daily Telegraph, they "travel to the east Midlands with Van Gaal being accused of imposing cautious and turgid football on the team".

The manager has now admitted that he is concerned about the rising tide of criticism being levelled at him, but insists that much of the blame can be laid at the door of United's opponents, who have been adopting defensive tactics.

Van Gaal also insists that "not giving much away" at the back was one of the reasons United currently sit above the likes of Arsenal and Man City in the league table.

However, Oliver Brown of the Telegraph believes Van Gaal is presiding over the "most excruciatingly ponderous Manchester United team in living memory".

United fans are used to, and expect, "creativity, elan and a buccaneering spirit" in their teams. Instead, they have been watching with "mounting incomprehension" a recent run in which United have ground out four goalless draws in seven matches.

They are not the only ones. James Ducker of The Times says United's "dull, cloying, risk-averse approach of Louis van Gaal runs counter to the traditions of a club immersed in a culture of rich, vibrant attacking football".

But the Dutchman insists on playing six men behind the ball and demands total obedience from his players.

While David Moyes never had the respect of the dressing room, "United's squad knows its place under Van Gaal", notes Ducker, which means no objections have emerged from within the camp.

On the terraces, some fans are "tolerant" of the way United play because Van Gaal has brought stability to the club after the chaos of Moyes's shortlived reign.

"Others would accept poorer results if there were clear signs of a free-flowing brand of football, but are wary of allowing their frustrations to morph into full-blown dissent," says Ducker.

Van Gaal, known as the 'Iron Tulip', has endeared himself to the United fans off the field, and that may explain the subdued nature of the criticism levelled against the team so far, says Brown.

"Van Gaal has mastered the weighty and august duties inherent in being United's figurehead," he says. But "most United disciples loathe his football with a passion".

Should the players revolt against his system (there are signs Wayne Rooney is growing more frustrated) and the goals fail to come, then even he could exhaust his "reservoir of goodwill" with the fans.

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