Monday, 21 December 2015

LOUIS VAN GAAL ON THE BRINK


At full time on Saturday, defeat to Norwich City felt like 'a manager's moment'. Perhaps not quite as decisive as it felt when David Moyes succumbed 2-0 to Everton at Goodison Park but the prevailing circumstances got it close.

On Thursday, Chelsea parted company with Jose Mourinho for the second time adding yet another elite name to the plethora of managers out of work in the summer. We now know that Carlo Ancelotti is spoken for having accepted to replace Pep Guardiola in the summer.

The bookmakers have not wasted time in installing Mourinho as a favourite for the United job if and when Louis van Gaal is relived of his duties. The media campaign to get Jose at Old Trafford is borne of firstly, a desire to retain one of the most quotable managers but also to create an artificial five way tussle for league superiority next season featuring Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, Arsene Wenger and Diego Simeone at Chelsea.

Whilst Jose Mourinho would not bring back the swashbuckling football to Old Trafford, his style remains effective and successful. Such are the constraints of being a United fan that the fans are willing to take a comprise on the cons that the 52 year old Portuguese would attract in his tenure.

It ultimately remains conjecture for as long as Louis van Gaal retains the support of his employers. On Saturday, Ed Woodward had a chat of support to van Gaal in the aftermath of defeat but results like that do little to secure his position.

In a way therefore, it feels like the Dutchman is doing little to help himself. Two wins against Bournemouth and Norwich City would have negated the availability of Jose Mourinho or any top manager for that matter. Not quite too much to ask for, is it? A winless run in six games now makes the club leadership look negligent by continuing to support the Dutchman.



The Match
United went about the fixture against Norwich in pretty much the same pattern as they went about AFC Bournemouth. United started brightly, but often failed to be imaginative up top enough to trouble Norwich's well set up backline.

For Alex Neil's side, the plan was to hit United hard on the counter attack--and boy did it work a treat! The continued absence of Morgan Schneiderlin from the starting line-up has made United vulnerable to any attack of sort. United have conceded at least a couple of goals per game since he injured himself. Chris Smalling has improved this season but the argument remains that the defensive strength of midfield has aided his cause until this point.

Defeat on Saturday was damaging in more than one way for the club. United's weaknesses are now well documented ahead of a run of tricky festive fixtures. The briefing from the club is that van Gaal has been given at least until Stoke City on Saturday to save his job.

I never really understand the sense in such ultimatums. Does he then keep his job if United win the next two and lose the following two? Are they effectively asking the players to play for their manager because we all know what will happen if the result goes South? What does the hierarchy hope to see between now and the next result before making a decision?

It's simple. Either you back your manager, or you fire him. Either choice can be reasoned out to send the message that you want to send out to players and fans. Dithering in between decisions effectively gives the players an excuse to crumble at the first sight of adversity in the next game.    

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