Monday 5 December 2016

Comment: Van Gaal has sucked the joy out of Man Utd - nothing can save him now

Published 18/04/2016 | 18:36

Louis van Gaal.
Louis van Gaal.

A glance around Old Trafford as the final whistle blew to herald Manchester United’s latest Premier League win provided compelling evidence that Louis van Gaal’s depressing philosophy has sucked the joy out of this great club.

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There wasn’t a hint of a cheer, barely a round of applause, for a 1-0 victory against a truly dreadful and newly relegated Aston Villa side that was a repeat of so many of the dire efforts seen at Old Trafford this season.

In fact, the Theatre of Dreams was half filled by the time the last act was played out in United’s latest instantly forgettable victory, with the empty seats providing visible evidence that this great club is hanging in a miserable state of limbo.

This was the end of United’s 16th home game in the Premier League this season, with the 21 goals scored in those fixtures a graphic illustration of the lack of dynamism being provided by a team that is set up with caution in mind and generally plays against opponents intent on sitting back and playing for a draw.

As these United (above) fans leaving Old Trafford last Saturday confirmed, the menu offered up by Van Gaal has long since become impossible to stomach.

In truth, Van Gaal has got it all wrong from the moment he set foot in the Old Trafford dug-out, with his opening days defeat against Swansea back in August 2014 a sign of what was to come.

It quickly became evident that the coach known for his rigid methods and unshakable self belief was not capable of embracing what this club should be all about.

Manchester United has long promoted a garish arrogance, a brash confidence that has helped to sweep their opponents away. Playing at Old Trafford used to be akin to storming a fortress that had a winning aura enveloping its every corridor and yet after David Moyes started to break down that mentality in his yeas as boss, now Van Gaal has banished it once and for all.

“I agree with you that we have to give more entertainment for the fans,” declared the United manager after the Villa game, in a statement that everyone who had paid money to watch the tripe served up on Saturday would agree with. The trouble is, this veteran manager simply cannot and will not deliver what they want, even after months of criticism.

  • FACT: Manchester United's value has fallen by more than £400m since the start of the season.
  • DID YOU KNOW: United’s lowest total of goals scored in a Premier League season at Old Trafford is 29 (2013/14 season). They have currently scored just 21 from with two home games left to play.
  • FACT: Van Gaal has won a trophy with every club he has been in charge of, with his last major honour coming six years ago with Bayern Munich.

Every victory tends to come at a desperately depressing cost for United fans right now as each three point haul or FA Cup triumph appears to give manager Van Gaal a new mandate to suggest he should be allowed to continue the misery, but that disturbing notion needs to be banished swiftly.

It was after United’s reasonably impressive FA Cup quarter-final replay win against West Ham last Wednesday that the stories started to circulate laying out the case that a top four finish an a trophy at the end of this tortuous season may be enough to keep Van Gaal in his post for the third and final year of his contract, but let’s look at the bigger picture here.

No leader should attempt to continue in office when the vast majority of his congregation have decided it is time for him to be ousted, yet Van Gaal has remained in place long after the balance between his supporters and detractors tipped towards the negative. That moment came last December, when he survived the first of his battles to cling on to power.

Yet even if he somehow manages to stagger across the line and secure a top four finish and even if he wins the FA Cup at Wembley next month, LVG has no mandate to continue in his post, which is why the end of his tenure will be confirmed at some point between now and the FA Cup final on Saturday, May 21st.

He has to go, even he must appreciate as much at this stage and don’t think for a second that this critique is another attempt to assassinate the character of a manager whose achievements in the game deserve respect, as that has never been the agenda for the mass media, despite Van Gaal protestations that his future is given undue attention.

The figures confirm that we get more clicks on websites and sell more newspapers if United are edging closer to triumphs at this stage of season and while the fairy tale of Leicester winning the Premier League title is a novel little story, it is not driving website traffic or sales in the media world.

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Our industry thrives when the clubs with the biggest support are thriving and there is no bigger club for attracting attention that United.

Maybe that is what Van Gaal did not fully appreciate when he walked through the doors at Old Trafford amid a fanfare of optimism following his success in leading Holland to the 2014 World Cup semi-finals that failure is not an option.

Mediocrity tends to be acceptable at most clubs in world football, but Alex Ferguson’s record breaking reign as Old Trafford Tsar established that United in 2016 should represent excellence on an off the field, with the style of their success as significant as the trophy haul.

Never mind that Van Gaal has a lower winning percentage than any United manager in recent memory, or that he boasts a career record that suggests he deserves more respect than he has been given in his time in English football. This has never been personal again the man, merely against a philosophy that promotes misery….a philosophy that has had its day.

The leaks from the Jose Mourinho camp suggesting he has “told friends” he will become United manager this summer have long since become a tiresome side show of this story, but once inescapable fact seems to prevail.

We are entering the final days of Van Gaal as manager of Manchester United and for those who have observed the pain inflicted as from either a biased or neutral perspective, the end cannot come soon enough.

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