There are numerous competing opinions in the Moyes vs Louis van Gaal debate. However, all that these arguments really show is that, to most people, football isn’t really about facts. It’s not even about points. It’s about *puts on best Disney character voice, points to heart, and whispers* feelings.
Comparing points, LVG has only just edged ahead of Moyes’ tally at the same stage of the season. It’s widely accepted that Moyes’ tenure at United was a complete disaster. Does that mean that Van Gaal is a few points above a complete disaster? No, because neither Liverpool and Everton have dropped off a (small-ish) cliff and Arsenal and Tottenham are a bit sluggish, so United have lucked into a higher position in the table. It doesn’t feel like a disaster. It’s not the points we’re keeping track of, it’s the humiliations, even though it’s not the humiliations that really matter.
But then Liverpool still feels like a big club despite having had a pretty bad decade (since Istanbul and the best FA Cup final of the 21st century in 2005 and 2006 they’ve won one measly League Cup and had a spell lingering outside the top 4 which it looks like they’ll return to). Southampton are expected to fall apart at some point this season ‘because they’re Southampton’, whatever that means. This will allow Arsenal to inevitably get into the top 4 because ‘Arsenal always get into the top 4’. For most of his career, Zlatan Ibrahimovic wasn’t appreciated on these shores because he’d never performed when we’d been watching. Why do I prefer Ronaldo over Messi? Because Messi seems dull as the chemical formula for paint drying (which there might not even be, but if it is I’m 100% sure it will be supremely boring). The defining moment of the World Cup wasn’t tactical brilliance, it was Brazil’s incompetence in the semi-final, their a capella renditions of their national anthem, Colombia’s team dancing, wondering how on Earth Messi won player of the tournament, Neymar’s back-break, Suarez’s bite, the ‘Braziil, Braaziiiiiiiil’ bit when ITV came back from an ad break. Sure, Van Persie scored a nice header, but it’s at least partly so special because after scoring it he sprinted over to give LVG a high five.
It’s the same in other sports. Andy Murray was a grumpy, unlovable Scot until the we saw him in tears after losing in the 2012 Wimbledon final. Everyone loves the Seattle Seahawks for their comeback last night despite the fact they were pretty terrible, offensively at least, for the vast majority of the game. The majority of people, I’d bet you, don’t like Ronnie O’Sullivan because he’s quite good at snooker, although that helps, but because he actually seems like you’d be able to talk to him for five minutes without falling asleep.
I went to see my NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons, at Wembley a few months ago, in which we lost in the last second because of a stupid rule that let Detroit take their field goal again after they missed it the first time. You know what? I loved the game and, in a way, would have preferred the result I got over a boring Falcons win.
There’s a reason why we only remember the team that won the title and not their points total. There’s a reason why fans are concerned about atmosphere at games, and there’s also a reason why it’s wrong to discount someone from being a fan of a club if they aren’t a regular matchgoer (just because they might only be able to get to one game in their lifetime shouldn’t mean that you can look down on them). Sport is about emotion, feelings, the brilliant highs, and the lows that you can form common bonds over and chuckle about in a year or two.
So if you’re trying to argue that LVG’s United is so much better than Moyes’ with facts, I’m afraid I’m going to be skeptical of what you’re saying, for the time being at least. But if you’re going to argue your case with how it feels… well, I can’t really argue with that.