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Is Luis Van Gaal a scoundrel ?

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A delegation of senior Manchester United players has confronted Louis van Gaal with concerns over his rigid training. Unhappy at what they see as stifling methods, the players asked the manager to be allowed to express themselves more freely.

The revelation comes after a stuttering start to the domestic campaign, in which United have scored three goals in four matches in the Barclays Premier League, and fans are demanding more emphasis on attacking adventure.

Supporters will hope that Anthony Martial can provide that, but Van Gaal — who admitted last night that the projected £58.8 million fee United have agreed to pay Monaco for the teenage France striker is “ridiculous” — suggested that his successor would be the main beneficiary of the signing.

The concerns of fans over United’s style of play have been shared by the players. After discussions inside the dressing room, senior figures approached Van Gaal to raise complaints about a lack of creativity. They feel that training orders have become so inflexible that they are hampering performances.

The confrontation, several weeks ago, did not prompt any immediate change from the manager and United prepare to face Liverpool on Saturday on the back of a limp defeat by Swansea City before the international break.

Van Gaal’s decision to sign the unproven Martial as support for Wayne Rooney will bring even more scrutiny to an attack that traditionally has been regarded as one of the club’s greatest strengths.

With United fifth in the table, ahead of Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea but five points behind Manchester City, the leaders, the Dutchman insists that it has been a solid start to the campaign, with better to come as Memphis Depay, Martial and other summer signings fit in. Van Gaal said last night that he would be happy with a top-three finish this season.

The concern of the players is less to do with manpower, or squad strength, after a massive gross outlay under Van Gaal that is now close to £300 million, than the inflexibility of his methods. He has always been a very exact, demanding coach — and, at times, a fierce one — but players reared under Sir Alex Ferguson are still finding it hard to adjust, even into his second season.

Some, such as Chris Smalling, have clearly benefited, but there is a wider belief in the dressing room that Van Gaal would get much more from his players by allowing them to be more expressive. Van Gaal said last night that the success of his training methods was the reason why United have not suffered any injuries this season compared to the glut they encountered when he joined 14 months ago.

The manager must also patch up his relationship with David De Gea, who, despite being exiled for the opening six matches, could start against Liverpool after his collapsed move to Real Madrid. The pair were due to hold talks yesterday.

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