Football

Wenger defends van Gaal over 'long ball' approach

Arsene Wenger believes leading clubs have a duty to entertain but has backed Louis van Gaal’s right to instruct Manchester United to play the long ball.

Van Gaal felt compelled to defend his tactical approach, even producing a leaflet for the benefit of the media, following criticism from West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, who suggested United “thumped it” in earning a 1-1 league draw at Upton Park.

“There was no reason (for van Gaal to defend himself),” said Gunners boss Wenger, speaking ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash with Middlesbrough.

“A big club has a responsibility to win and try to win with style — but first try to win.

“I didn’t understand really what the problem was. Man United went a bit longer in the last 10 minutes — I found it completely logical.

“If I am in a game in the last five minutes, we have a free-kick and we have three monsters up front, I do not say ‘play a short ball’.

“A team goes naturally from its strong points and an intelligent team knows how to exploit its strong points.

“When we have (Olivier) Giroud on the pitch the players understand quickly that we can play a bit longer, we can cross the ball more, because he will win the ball in the air.

“I don’t even think van Gaal said to them ‘go longer’. When they saw (Marouane) Fellaini on the pitch the guy at the back said ‘I’ll kick it to Fellaini and (Robin) van Persie or (Wayne) Rooney can score the goal’.

“It’s normal.”

Source: PA Sport

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