When the team-sheets were announced Manchester United fans feared the worst and they were correct in doing so.
An inexperienced defensive line consisting of Guillermo Varela, Paddy McNair, Daley Blind and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson wasn’t a shock given the litany of injuries that the team has suffered but it was still disconcerting to say the least.
United proceeded to concede two goals from corners, which makes it four goals conceded from set pieces in the last two games. This is alarming when you consider organisation and attention to detail are traits that Van Gaal teams pride themselves on.
More importantly it is now five games without a win and there have only been three wins in the last twelve games in all competitions. The pressure is approaching fever-pitch and Ed Woodward was looking suitably concerned watching on in the Vitality Stadium.
One of the Bournemouth goals came from former United youth product Josh King, while castaway Chicharito scored a hat-trick today and on-loan James Wilson was on the score-sheet for Brighton. This raises questions about the squad Van Gaal is building given that he had no striker available on the bench today.
The manager has said he likes to work with a smaller squad but this doesn’t seem to be a decision born out of sound logic – especially when you consider the amount of muscle injuries players have succumbed to under his training regimen.
Furthermore, substitutions continue to be a source of bewilderment. In the Champions League it was Juan Mata going off for Nick Powell and today it was the turn of Marouane Fellaini. The gangly Belgian amassed five shots today, which at the time of his substitution was more than the rest of the team put together (four).
Meanwhile, an experienced winger in Ashley Young has been left to ponder his Christmas shopping list as an unused substitute for the second game in a row. Given the lack of penetration the team is displaying and the dearth of alternatives it is another confounding phenomenon of the Van Gaal philosophy.
There was to be no solace in Van Gaal’s post-match comments as he insightfully stated that “it was a match where who scores the winning goal shall win.” All of the above and more besides has an increasing number of fans contemplating regime change as the Van Gaal process shows signs faults in the supply chain.
The position in the league table is still relatively respectable and the transfer window offers up a chance to shore up the squad should the powers that be spend wisely. It could be the most important month of Van Gaal’s reign.