Manchester United ready to offer Louis van Gaal new deal
Manchester United 0-0 West Ham United
Manchester United are willing to extend the contract of manager Louis van Gaal once he clarifies that he is willing to stay on at Old Trafford.
Despite another negative reaction from supporters to the club's struggle for goals after this dour draw against West Ham on Saturday, the club consider the way Van Gaal has steadied the ship and taken the club back into the top four and Champions League as far more significant than the current style of football.
However, United are acutely aware that the search for a new manager will take time and do not want to go into the 2016-'17 season without a clear idea of the Dutchman's intentions.
Their desire for at least a season to carry out the search points to talks at the end of this season and possibly sooner.
There is currently uncertainty about precisely what the 64-year-old's intentions are beyond the end of next season, when his contract expires.
Van Gaal has always said that this will be his last job in football and that he will limit his tenure to the three years of this contract, then allowing himself to spend time with his wife Trudi.
However, the notion of Van Gaal wanting to stay beyond the original contract has not been entirely dismissed.
The current thinking is that, if he takes United to a Premier League title or Champions League success, he may feel he wants more. Alternatively, he may decide that is a good time to call it a day.
His appetite and absorption with football will ultimately dictate whether he wants to push on towards his 70th birthday - as did Alex Ferguson.
United are desperate not to fall into the trap of entering a one-year farewell period without first identifying a successor.
In recent days, United appear to have given up on the hope that that man will be Pep Guardiola, the current Bayern Munich head coach, whose future is the biggest talking point on the European managerial merry-go-round.
They now believe that if, as is increasingly expected, Guardiola rejects the offer of a new deal with the German club, he is almost certain to end up at Manchester City.
The presence at City of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain in senior management positions has led to constant speculation that the former Barcelona manager will eventually be lured to the Etihad.
That has led United to cast their thoughts elsewhere, mostly in a bid to avoid the situation they faced as long ago as 2001 when Ferguson announced his retirement, 12 months ahead of time.
Ferguson, who performed an about-turn in February 2002 to remain in position, has spoken at great length about the problems that his announcement created in the United dressing room with players switching off due to his pending departure.
United finished only third in that campaign, despite the big-money recruitments of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastian Veron at the start of the season.
Ferguson, who went on to manage the club for another dozen years, later described his premature retirement announcement as one of the biggest mistakes of his reign.
United's current malaise, particularly in front of goal, has led to dissatisfaction among supporters who face seeing their team exit the Champions League tomorrow night when their team travels to Wolfsburg needing a victory to be certain of advancing to the last 16.
Last Friday, Van Gaal conceded his team was not good enough to win the European crown this season and that next summer would be a vital period of recruitment in order to strengthen enough to make a run at the Champions League next season.
That has placed extra importance on United's need to have a succession policy in place for Van Gaal with United entering the transfer market place this summer and attempting to sign players who know the Dutchman will be in charge for only a further 12 months.
The latest United setback came in this drab draw - their fifth in nine matches - which saw supporters' frustrations reach a new high.
United's former players, led by Paul Scholes, have fuelled the criticism in their role as media pundits and the fact that the club has spent £250m on players since Van Gaal arrived 18 months ago hardly plays to his favour.
However, despite the usual howls from social media calling for Van Gaal to be replaced immediately, there is no suggestion of him being placed under any pressure by the United board, especially as the club stands just three points from the top of a very inconsistent Premier League.
Short of a dramatic drop-off in form, and United falling out of the Champions League places, it is hard to imagine Van Gaal being placed under any sort of scrutiny ahead of his final year in charge of the club.
In terms of a successor, assistant Ryan Giggs has consistently been spoken of as Van Gaal's heir apparent, not least of all by the Dutchman himself, although whether the United hierarchy feel he will have the necessary experience as early as 2017 remains to be seen.
The surprise appointment last week of Gary Neville to the manager's post at Valencia has naturally fuelled speculation that the former United legend would be ideally placed should he impress in La Liga.
But regardless of whether Neville makes an impact quickly enough to be considered for the United post, a plan and strategy will be put in place next summer by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
Argentinian Diego Simeone, in charge of Atlético Madrid, is arguably, after Guardiola, the young manager with the most impressive CV and reputation currently operating on the continent.
Van Gaal said in September that he was determined to leave the summer after next.
"I will give it [football] up [in 2017]," he said.
"I promised that to my wife. We have not many years together any more. That is the reason.
"I have to admit I have said to her, when I met her and after our relationship seemed to be very good, that at 55 I shall quit. I am still working and [now] I am 64."
Talk of a new contract for Van Gaal won't impress many who support United from the Stretford End, who were at the end of their tether 70 minutes into Saturday's stalemate.
"Attack, attack, attack," was their rallying cry.
It is a mantra that has been heard plenty of times in the Van Gaal era, but this carried a venom as much as an instruction. Boos preceded it.
It is becoming a recurring soundtrack to all United's fixtures, notes now being compared as to whether the agitation levels were greater than previous chants of dissent.
Watch closely enough, and you would swear that Van Gaal's full-time walk from dugout to tunnel is being negotiated as if he is on a tightrope rather than the touchline.
The prompt for supporters' unrest was one midfield backpass too many in search of the breakthrough.
After so many months of tedium, many home fans are no longer cutting their side any slack after five 0-0 draws in their past nine games.
The accusation lingers that United are trying to overcome opponents with their powers of sedation more than spectacular football.
But Van Gaal is having none of it.
"The fans are disappointed, yes, I know because I am also disappointed and so are my players," said the Red Devils' boss.
"But I don't understand why they are shouting 'attack, attack, attack' because we are the attacking team, not West Ham United, and it's the same in every game."