Holland have stunned Mexico and advanced to the Quarter Finals of the World Cup after scoring two goals in the final five minutes of the match. Wesley Sneijder equalized with two minutes left before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored a penalty in extra time. This result is an extremely good sign for Manchester United fans because Holland played with the “never say die” attitude that United was famous for during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign.
During David Moyes’ time at United, the team often looked to fear the final ten minutes of a game, rather than embrace them. United fans are used to the final ten minutes being a period of dominance as the team searched for a late winner, or added salt to the opposition’s wounds. Under Moyes the team conceded a lot of soft goals and dropped far too many points. Holland’s comeback typified what United are about, never giving up, and van Gaal can return this spirit to the squad.
As the game entered the final twenty minutes, Mexico looked comfortably in the lead. Holland had chances but they were not breaking down a resilient Mexican defense. Van Gaal has to take the credit because he was willing to amend his choices that had not paid off, such as playing Robin van Persie as the lone striker. He brought van Persie off and changed his system in order to make the team more offensive. The changes worked, and Holland equalized in the 88th minute when Sneijder blasted a shot in from outside the box. When Hunterlaar scored the winner it showed that van Gaal’s willingness to take chances is something else that United fans should look forward to next season.
Van Persie, the Holland captain, had been largely ineffective during his time on the field and van Gaal subbed him with 15 minutes to go, despite van Persie being Holland’s leading scorer. Subbing off van Persie was a bold move for any game, but when Holland is losing, the stakes are heightened because van Gaal would have taken flak had Holland not scored. This is a good sign for United fans because it shows that van Gaal is not afraid to take off players who are not performing.
Players had a lot of power during Moyes’ tenure and it often had negative effects on the team’s performances. Too many stories were leaked about player unhappiness, and too often under-performing players were still in the squad when they should have been dropped. As a United fan it is refreshing to see that our next manager is willing to make bold decisions when crowd favorites are not playing well. It is also exciting to see that he is willing to do what it takes to get a win because the Moyes era often felt content to play out for draws. Seeing the Holland players fight to the final whistle to score a winner made me very excited for next season under van Gaal.
Holland are always an exciting team to watch at the World Cup. With van Gaal already appointed as United’s next manager, it makes their campaign even more exciting, particularly when they put in performances like the one against Mexico because it gives a snippet of what can be expected next season.