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Van Gaal rebuffs ‘long-ball’ claim with stats

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Van Gaal

MANCHESTER, February 10 – Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal sought to torpedo West Ham United counterpart Sam Allardyce’s accusation that his side play “long-ball” football by producing a dossier of statistics on Tuesday.

Allardyce claimed that United’s strategy during the 1-1 Premier League draw between the teams at Upton Park on Sunday had been “thump it forward and see what happens”.

But Van Gaal unveiled a four-page statistical document at his media conference on Tuesday, compiled by his performance analysis team, to suggest it was West Ham who had played a more direct style in the game.

“When a colleague of mine is saying these types of things, you have to see the data and put the data in the right context, I believe,” said Van Gaal, before handing the document to bemused journalists.

“When you see overall the long ball, and what is the possession of that, then West Ham have played 71 percent of the long balls to the forwards and we played 49.

“Because I expected this question, I have made an invitation (document) of the data of this game. They did it with 71 and we did with 49. You can copy it and give it to Big Sam.”

The Dutchman continued: “When you have nearly 60 percent ball possession, do you think you can do that with long balls? Yes, long balls in the width, when you switch the play.

“So you have to look at the data and you see of course we play some long balls. But more long balls in the width than to the strikers.

“A long ball to the forward striker is mainly called long-ball play. It’s not so difficult to read it. I am 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 change the play style and of course, with the quality of (Marouane) Fellaini, we play more forward balls.

“We scored because of that also. So I think it’s a very good decision of the manager.”

– McNair’s ‘dream come true’ –

United’s stoppage-time equaliser came when a high ball played towards Fellaini was only partially cleared by West Ham right-back Carl Jenkinson, allowing Daley Blind to volley home.

Van Gaal claims he has no concerns about the aesthetics of United’s play despite accusations that their football is not as exciting as it was under legendary former manager Alex Ferguson.

“We also played along the floor against Cambridge United (in the FA Cup),” he added. “I think we have played attractive games and less attractive games. That’s no discussion.

“You can always improve. There is never a perfect match. You have to improve. That’s why we have to work on the training ground.”

Van Gaal also spoke in praise of 19-year-old defender Paddy McNair, who has signed a contract that will keep him at Old Trafford until 2017 with an option for a further year.

“I think that he has developed himself, so I’m happy he’s signed,” Van Gaal said. “I am always happy to sign young players because it gives good spirit to the Manchester United club academy.

“He’s happy and I’m happy. I hope that he shall develop himself still and more and more, that he has a great future here at Manchester United.”

McNair told the United website: “To make my debut for this great club earlier this season was a dream come true.

“I’m pleased to have signed a new contract. I have come through the academy here and I feel I am improving my game all the time with the help of the manager, the coaching staff and my team-mates.”

Currently fourth in the Premier League table, United host fourth-bottom Burnley on Wednesday.

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