in the Evening Standard

“The first thing I want to say is I have every respect for Louis van Gaal. However, speaking from the experience of years of criticism that teams managed by me alway play the long-ball game, I felt it was right after our match against Manchester United to make the comments I did. It was, to a certain extent, tongue in cheek but I believe I was also making a factual point. The fact was I saw United play, for a time against us last weekend, in a way I have never seen them before. What I didn’t say afterwards was that we played fewer long balls than them — my comment was that United played long-ball football more than I have ever witnessed from them in the past. As it happens, the statistics seem to bear that out over the season and as far as our game was concerned, it worked with that late equaliser even though it didn’t come directly from a long ball. It wasn’t Marouane Fellaini who nodded the ball down for Daley Blind to score but a headed clearance from our defender, Carl Jenkinson. Had I not mentioned the facts after the match, would anyone else have pointed it out? Dare I make those comments because it’s Manchester United? Yes, I dare because it was a fact. Louis’s response created a bit of a furore and he obviously felt he had to protect himself by responding to my comments. It was clear he didn’t want to be saddled with the same sort of tag that has been my lot over the years.

It is a tactic he will use when he thinks fit, the same as any good manager. The reality is if you continue to play football one way only and it doesn’t bring you the result you need, the supporters will go home miserable. If, towards the end of the game, you change your style of play, go more direct and draw 1-1 — or even better, win 2-1 — they go home happy. The perception that we all have to play a certain type of football is nonsense. It’s akin to football snobbery. Look at Everton. Roberto Martinez has turned to Plan B because the A game wasn’t working. Everton are now playing a more direct game, a more defensive game. Roberto’s doing his job. Louis might have felt I was criticising him but the opposite was true. In fact I was praising the way he changed his team to escape from the predicament they were in against us. If he hadn’t have done that, we would have gone on to win the game.”