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Red Devils Advocate: Maybe Louis van Gaal wasn't so bad after all

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In this week's edition of Red Devils Advocate -- our weekly feature which aims to spark debate by providing a balanced view in opposition to the general feeling amongst Reds -- Ryan Baldi suggests that maybe Louis van Gaal deserves some credit.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - The Emirates FA Cup Final Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The sympathy that was felt for Louis van Gaal as his imminent departure from Manchester United loomed, was more in relation to the timing of when the news broke -- with multiple reports that the Dutch tactician was to be replaced surfacing minutes after he'd lifted the FA Cup in May -- than it was about any feeling that his dismissal was unjust.

Without question, it would've been to most people's preference -- the club included, as the media leak was thought to have come from outside of United -- for van Gaal to at least have been afforded 24 hours to celebrate his recent cup triumph.

But it wasn't to be, and at some point over the following two days, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward informed the veteran coach that he was to be relieved of his duties.

The overriding feeling among United fans was one of relief; performances on the field during van Gaal's two seasons at Old Trafford had been uninspiring, and results -- aside from the FA Cup win -- hadn't been a great deal better.

But as José Mourinho, van Gaal's former assistant at FC Barcelona, takes over, he might have a little more to thank the former Ajax boss for that many realise.

Bayern Muenchen v Real Madrid - Beckenbauer Farewell Match Photo by Sandra Behne/Bongarts/Getty Images

United's on-field displays under van Gaal were much maligned, with a lack of attacking fluidity and an overly-cautious, possession-heavy approach adopted. But, given the squad bequeathed to van Gaal by his predecessor, David Moyes, the Dutchman can be forgiven for trying to instil a degree of solidity.

In Moyes's ill-fated single season at Old Trafford, a title-winning side had regressed to seventh-place in the Premier League, and were regularly and easily overturned by high-quality opposition.

Having witnessed the way that Manchester City and Liverpool had destroyed Moyes's men, van Gaal opted to overhaul the defence, and reduce the amount of risks taken in order to make United harder to beat.

The results of which -- although inconsistent as the Red Devils struggled to breakdown inferior opposition who'd sit back and invite United on -- garnered a multitude of victories against the upper-echelon teams. Last season, City were beaten at the Etihad, Liverpool vanquished home and away and Arsenal were beaten 3-2 at Old Trafford.

These results and performances instilled a big-game mentality in the squad.

Van Gaal was also an advocate of utilising young players in the first-team. The Dutchman perhaps gave himself more credit than he deserved for this, as his failings in the transfer market and paper-thin squad forced his hand somewhat, and many of the young players who were given a chance to impress, were soon removed in favour of an established colleague returning from injury.

But, nevertheless, without van Gaal at the helm, Marcus Rashford -- who rose to prominence through producing consistently exceptional performances after making his debut in February -- and possibly Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson too, would've been ulinkely to have gotten their chance when they did.

The way Rashford grabbed his first-team opportunity with both hands, and conducted himself with the poise of a senior pro, has landed the 18-year-old a place in England's Euro 2016 squad, and the young man has been earmarked for a bright future at Old Trafford.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - The Emirates FA Cup Final Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

And finally, the importance of last season's FA Cup win should not be underestimated.

It was the 12th time United had lifted the famous trophy, equalling the record held by Arsenal. But, more importantly, it was the first major trophy the club had collected since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

The FA Cup victory not only gave the young players a taste of what it's like to win trophies, but the first silverwear of the post-Ferguson era helped alleviate some of the anxiety inside Old Trafford, as fans feared that their club was falling behind their rivals.

The FA Cup, though viewed as a lower priority than the Premier League and the Champions League, will provide a strong foundation of success upon which Mourinho can build.

It may not have been pretty and it certainly wasn't a whole lot of fun, but Louis van Gaal's United reign is not without merit.