Despite occasionally playing far from attractive football, there was always a need to score goals to win games under Ferguson, although van Gaal has lost that in favour of a sterile, possession-based play. Although they are still picking up results - and they have just one defeat in their last 18 games - the football has been a task to watch, and a number of those fixtures have seen United outplayed by far weaker opponents.
As the central playmaker in one of United’s most attacking teams of recent seasons - the 4-6-0 of 2008/09 - Scholes has a wealth of experience of how United played under Ferguson, and he was the subject of widespread praise during this spell of the Red Devils evolution - despite his advancing age. Being such a good passer of the ball meant that Scholes rarely wasted possession, and United took advantage of this by making sure they utilised his talents for an attacking purpose.
Rather than sitting in the team to recycle possession, the former England intentional was a key playmaker, and according to Scholes, it is a role that is lacking in van Gaal’s current set-up.
Writing in the Standard, Scholes said: “As a midfielder at United I had to pass the ball forward and, yes, it did not always work. It did not always mean putting a chance on a plate for the strikers. It was up to them to get on the ball and score goals. Was it easy? No, but we were playing for United. It was not supposed to be easy.
“Of the current team, Angel Di Maria has taken more risks than any other and unfortunately for him it has not worked out. He has given the ball away a lot for very little returns. Otherwise there seems to be an emphasis on possession. I would go further than that: there is an obsession with possession.”
Scholes continued to address this obsession, claiming that it goes against the ethos of attacking football instilled at Old Trafford under Ferguson.
“It was not an option [to attack]; it was an obligation,” the 40-year-old added. “In the periods of my career when I stopped passing the ball forward, or when I stopped looking for the risky pass that might open up a defence, the consequences were the same. The manager stopped picking me. I got back into the team when I went back to doing it the way he wanted.”