|United players look dejected after defeat on Thursday in the Europa League|
Whilst it is the scenario that is not reflected in the Bookmakers' odds, it is certainly not beyond the realms of likelihood, that Shrewsbury Town could be in for an easy night out in the FA Cup fifth round tonight. It's a predicament that is borne of a difficulty to put a finger on just how bad Manchester United are at the moment.
Defeat on Thursday in Denmark to FC Midtjylland in the Europa league plunged the club to new depths. Louis van Gaal's side keep throwing up a mini-competition of the club's most embarrasing result in their history. Their first defeat to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light last weekend was quickly put in the shadows by a shocking result in Denmark on the Thursday.
It sent the media into a comparative analysis of United's worst ever showings on the pitch. Under Louis van Gaal, defeats to Milton Keynes Dons in his first season and to Middlesbrough in this were debated. The most recent against FC Midtjylland was a shoe in. Tonight, defeat at Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup will stake a claim for a spot on that list.
Louis van Gaal remains in a job because of egos among his employers. His sacking would not just reflect bad on him but would also paint a picture of ineptness by the Executive vice Chair Ed Woodward. The expectation is that United will not make a change in the managerial department until at least the summer. Even that is not a guarantee by any means.
Not that Louis van Gaal has taken advantage of this remarkable show of loyalty to improve the club's fortunes. It is an indictment on his reign that United keep finding new depths even after appearing to recover from a prevailing slump. There is hardly any credit left in the bank for the Dutchman. Even the local paper has since joined the wagon for calls to replace him.
Sometimes, regardless of the stance and goodwill behind a manager, there comes a time when you just have to cut your losses and let loose. One such circumstance is when the manager appears to have lost the players. Reports suggest that the players already have their heads turned by the allegation that Jose Mourinho is going to take charge of the club. The Danish press noticed the ability of Anthony Martial on Thursday night but concluded that even though he had the tools to destroy their club, he seemed like he didn't want to. When a manager has lost faith in his human resource, it's hard to expect decent results at the end of the production line.
The opportunity however remains that United are playing for a last 8 berth in the FA Cup. With a home draw against West Ham to follow in the sixth round, the challenge between United and a date at Wembley Stadium for the semi-final is ordinarily very much within United's powers. Except that this is no ordinary season for Manchester United. As such, not many fans have faith that the club will end it's 12 year wait for an FA Cup triumph.
Ahead of a week in which United's season could effectively be written off, the pressure couldn't be possibly higher for the club. United could be evicted from both Cup competitions this week and have their Champions League hopes effectively over with defeat to the Arsenal at home on Sunday. Extending a relevance to their season beyond this week will be some feat....no really, it will.
What a time to be alive, eh?