By Nathan Goldberg, Maja Campara, Christopher Martinez, and Siqi Zhao
After a glorious 26 year and 38 trophy spell at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson decided to step down from his role as manager immediately after winning the 2012-2013 English Premier League campaign. It was always going to be hard to live up to the expectations a club of this caliber demanded, but the first season after Fergusons departure was nothing short of a disaster. Under the management of David Moyes, the team finished seventh in the league, too low to qualify for places in European competitions for the first time in recent memory, let alone mount a challenge for the title. The infamous campaign cost Moyes his job, and Louis Van Gaal, a headline grabbing, no-nonsense, outspoken coach, was brought in to replace him. With Van Gaal at the helm, United performed slightly better, finishing fourth in the league and claiming the very last qualifying slot for the lucrative Champions league, but still a far cry away from a team vying for the championship.
Louis Van Gaal divides opinion. His admirers fawn over his confident and straightforward approach, attributing the upturn in the clubs fortune to his footballing genius; his detractors claim his bold stances and controversial tactics are but smoke and mirrors, and associate the small improvement in the team to chance alone. The primary purpose of this paper, then, is to investigate whether or not Manchester United actually improved under the leadership of Louis Van Gaal when compared to the season under David Moyes. Since the effect of the coach on the team is very difficult to tease out, the project will attempt only to determine if there was a significant improvement in any metrics related to team performance from the 2013-2014 season to the 2014-2015, without relating the effect to the coach himself. Furthermore, this paper attempts to determine whether the last two years at the club could be objectively termed a “crisis”. After all, although people remember Sir Alex Ferguson as the manager who won the league title on 13 occasions, he actually finished in the bottom half of the table twice in his first three years. Therefore, the secondary purpose of this paper is to establish a method of comparison between the last two seasons and those during Ferguson’s reign, in order to conclude whether or not these two have been significantly worse.
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