Saturday 10 December 2016

Comment: Van Gaal's Trump-style illusion will not renew his mandate

Published 07/03/2016 | 16:39

Louis van Gaal has come close to successfully plagiarising a page from the Donald Trump’s fantasy copybook in the last few weeks, but his Manchester United myth was never likely to be a long-term vote winner.

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While Trump has convinced an alarming healthy slice of his compatriots to believe that he is fit to become the 45th President of the United States by peddling an implausible rhetoric that has turned American politics into a reality TV show, so Van Gaal stumbled across a line of conversation that appeared to be winning over some of his doubters among the Manchester United faithful.

Van Gaal has spent much of this season losing the support of his electorate by promoting a football philosophy that has created an increasingly dense gloomy fog over Old Trafford, yet amid a crisis that looked certain to end with his removal as United manager, he latched on to a narrative that could prolong his career over the last month.

The notion that Van Gaal made a decision to play youthful players by choice this season is a yarn that was an unbelievable as some of Trump’s most extravagant claims, with injuries to his leading stars and the woeful form of some of his star signings the primary reason why Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Guillermo Varela, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford have been handed first team promotions in recent weeks.

As Trump would doubtless confirm, there is no good reason to allow facts to get in the way of a headline grabbing story, so Van Gaal was quick to jump on the bandwagon to claim he would one-day be hailed as a hero for promoting the virtues of his ‘Class of 2016’.

“Part of my function is to be like a teacher,” he told reporters last week. “Older players are not always likely to follow and perform, but younger players are different. Rashford has got his chance thanks to my policy. This is why we have a smaller squad. So we can give you players as chance. This is what I have done throughout my career.”

Come on Louis, no-one believes your nonsensical claims.

Does the United manager seriously to expect us to sign up to the idea that ‘his’ kids would be part of his first team plans if defenders Luke Shaw, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Antonio Valencia were fully fit right now?

Are we meant to appreciate that Lingard is a United first team star due to Van Gaal’s inspired decisions, when the reality must by that he is a last resort option to fill in for the injured Ashley Young and the hugely disappointing Memphis Depay?

Would we have heard of Rashford if United and their manager had not been so negligent in leaving their cupboard of striking options bare in the absence of Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial with their lamentable transfer dealings last summer?

They are questions that barely merit an answer, as LVG's lurch towards the kids is move inspired by necessity rather than choice.

Yet a desperate Van Gaal needed to latch on to the first olive branch floated his way after a turbulent few months when Jose Mourinho’s claims to replace him as United boss have gather momentum, so this idea that he was building United’s future apparently welcomed by the Old Trafford hierarchy who have, according some media outlets, been keen to highlight his youth promoting virtues in recent days.

Mourinho’s history of refusing to embrace young players during his trophy-laden career has led many to conclude that the new breed of United starlets would be damaged by his appointment as the club’s manager, but that sideshow should not be allowed to detract from the bigger picture here.

As United stumbled to their eighth defeat of what can only be described as a disastrous Premier League campaign on Sunday, Van Gaal’s flaws were placed back on the agenda once again, as the shadow of Mourinho creeps up in him once more.

If promoting a few of United’s youth team starlets is Van Gaal’s only notable achievement in two seasons that have seen him spend £250m to build a squad that cannot cope with an injury crisis, then failure is the only word fit to describe his confused reign in Manchester.

A run of four successive wins prior of Sunday’s defeat at West Brom gave Van Gaal a false belief that he had earned a mandate to continue as United manager, but don’t be fooled by the spin. This is a United team sitting 13 points behind Leicester City in the Premier League and by anyone’s standards, that is not be acceptable.

Van Gaal will remain in place as a manager on the brink at United and thus will be the case until he is finally put out of his misery at Old Trafford and his departure date is still likely to be long before the US Presidential elections in November.

Not even his Trump-style approach to PR will allow him to create an illusion that progress is being made at United when his judgement day comes.

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