Kevin Palmer: Jose Mourinho's gone....is Louis van Gaal next?
Changing perceptions is often a more challenging task than winning football matches in this age of quick-fire judgements, which explains why Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is the odds-on favourite to be the next Premier League boss to be ousted from his post.
As the shockwaves created by Jose Mourinho’s sacking at Chelsea continue to ripple through the football world, Van Gaal faced the media on Friday and conceded for the first time that he needs to convince his increasingly vocal army of doubters that he is the right man to lead United towards glory.
“Then fans have to prove their belief again,” he stated, in a clear message to United supporters to re-engage with his team after a miserable five-game winless run.
“The board can see what you can do as a manager in practice but the fans cannot see that, so when you lose you need the belief of the fans. It is a question for the fans, not the manager.”
Van Gaal’s suggestions that the good work he is doing behind the scenes at United justifies up the glaring holes in his team will fall on deaf ears among fans whose wavering support for this veteran Dutchman has been turning more poisonous with each passing week.
The Mourinho circus at Chelsea took some of the spotlight away from Van Gaal’s faltering battle to keep United supporters on his side, but that scrutiny will be intensified when Norwich visit Old Trafford on Saturday, before Christmas fixtures against Stoke, Chelsea and Swansea.
Given the current climate of animosity towards Van Gaal and his increasingly despised philosophy, nothing less than wins will do in in all four of those matches, even if that scenario seems unlikely on current form.
United’s future will not include Van Gaal for long as he intends to retire in the summer of 2017 so talk of his long-term vision is irrelevant.
He needs to focus on the here and now as they is a chance that Van Gaal may not be part of United’s story for too long after Christmas 2015 if the current trend of animosity towards him is not halted stemmed.
Never mind that Van Gaal is the manager who has overseen a lamentable Champions League campaign that ended in ignominious fashion in the group stages, or that United slumped to a defeat at Bournemouth last weekend.
Setbacks happen in football, but it’s the manner of their creation that leaves a lasting impression.
As was the case in Mourinho’s final days at Chelsea, Van Gaal’s message is being blurred by a fog of negativity that he has promoted with his dour brand of football. It has to change and it has to change now.
While the return of skipper Wayne Rooney, defender Chris Smalling and midfielder Ander Herrera from injury against Norwich should boost a United side that looked shaken and groggy as they lost to Bournemouth last weekend, shifting the gloomy mood around United is a task for the man at the top to tackle.
It is not too much for United fans to expect to be entertained when they stump up hefty sums of their hard earned cash to watch their team in action at Old Trafford, with the three successive 0-0 draws at Old Trafford heading into their latest home match evidence that this Van Gaal project is stuck in neutral.
Ambitious abandon does not come easily to a coach who tried to encourage his side to press the accelerator pedal in their decisive Champions League game against Wolfsburg earlier this month, with the end result being a shambolic defensive performance that concluded in a disastrous defeat.
Yet despite that recent scar in their memory banks, United should be looking at attack Norwich with pace this weekend, to get players beyond the last line of their defence and to set pulses racing among their army of fans around the world. That’s what United should do Mr Van Gaal….it’s the club’s philosophy.
Yet when referee Michael Oliver sounds his whistle and the action gets underway against one of the relegation favourites, will they served up a familiar diet of depression will be served up once again?
This belligerent tactician is not the type who will amend his ways to placate a baying mob and now we are about to enter a period that will decide whether this 64-year-old tactician can escape from the grip of the kind of crisis that swallowed up his protégé Mourinho this week.
They say winning is everything in this game, but Mourinho’s demise at Chelsea is confirmation that no manager is safe in the Premier League any more.
Could Van Gaal be next?
NEXT PREMIER LEAGUE MANAGER TO BE SACKED
Louis van Gaal (Manchester United) 1/2
Remi Garde (Aston Villa) 5/1
Steve McClaren (Newcastle) 7/1
Alex Neil (Norwich) 14/1
Ronald Koeman (Southampton) 20/1