Saturday 7 December 2019

Comment: The final bill for Louis van Gaal's failure will be staggering

Sunderland 2 Manchester United 1

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney talks to referee Andre Marriner at the end of the match
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney talks to referee Andre Marriner at the end of the match
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

When the post mortem on Louis van Gaal’s reign at Manchester United is carried out, the report is likely to conclude that his whole project was ill-conceived from day one.

As the Van Gaal era at United added another low point to a growing list following a 2-1 defeat against Sunderland, the latest round of #VanGaalOut kicked into gear on Twitter, yet that campaign already seems to be redundant.

This story is edging rapidly towards an inevitable conclusion and it is now only a matter of when the Dutchman leaves his post.

This Saturday lunchtime kick-off offered up a great chance for United to close the gap on the teams in the Premier League’s top four positions, but they fluffed their lines once more as the gloom that has hovered over the club throughout Van Gaal’s reign descended again.

However, tale always had the potential for disaster.

From the moment Van Gaal signed a three-year contract at United and insisted he had no intention if extending his career beyond the summer of 2017, the club that was craving the kind of stability provided by Alex Ferguson during his quarter of a century at the helm started the countdown towards their next big change.

Lamine Kone celebrates with team mates after scoring the second goal for Sunderland
Lamine Kone celebrates with team mates after scoring the second goal for Sunderland

United had been stung by their decision to hand David Moyes a six-year contract when he replaced Ferguson and this time they went for the short, sharp fix. This time they agreed to let Van Gaal have a shorter deal, with the hope that he could be more rapid progress. On both occasions, they have got it horribly wrong.

Maybe it was never realistic for Van Gaal to rip up the squad he inherited and start from scratch, but that is precisely what the stubborn Dutchman decided to do when he took control following his 2014 World Cup adventure with Holland.

Changes were evidently needed after the mess left behind by Moyes, but the identity of the manager handed full control of the rebuilding operation had one major flaw in his make-up. He was not in this for the long haul and all to predictably, United are now working out what to do next.

Such was the faith United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward put in Van Gaal that he can the veteran tactician a vast budget to work with in terms of players investment and in the recruitment of his back room staff and now that it is all falling apart, the bill for this failure will be vast.

Van Gaal has been allowed to reshape United’s in a variety of areas, with his medical staff, coaching assistants and close advisers all on the Old Trafford payroll for another year.

Paying off up to ten members of staff will not be a major concern to United after their healthy financial report confirmed the profits are flowing at the club, but questions should be asked why Van Gaal was entrusted with so much power at the club after confirming he would not be present to see through what is a long-term strategy.

He was attempting to talk his way out of the ‘three-years and out’ problem from the moment he arrived at United, as he promoted the virtues of his assistant Ryan Giggs continuing to continue his philosophy long after he had gone.

Yet that idea has always been risky given the absence of managerial experience Giggs has in his locker and now that Van Gaal is effectively a lame duck and soon to be former United manager, the quest for Plan C in the post Ferguson era is well underway.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal

Many disgruntled United fans will now call for Giggs to be given control of the team until the end of this season, but would the inexperienced Welshman do any better than Van Gaal with a set of players who are not good enough to play for this great club?

It seems unlikely, so expect Van Gaal to limp on for a few more weeks until he or the club decides his tenure has reached a natural conclusion. That may come next week, next month or even right through to the final game of the season in May.

Champions League football will not to return to Old Trafford next season unless Van Gaal can engineer an unlikely triumph in the Europa League competition the club do not want to be in, with Mourinho likely to start all over again if he is the man entrusted with the next chapter in this confused story.

United knew how lucky they were to have Ferguson at the helm for so many years, with the stability the greatest manager of them all brought to the club a luxury they will never enjoy again.

Getting used to the idea that they are now just a normal club that hire and fire managers on a bi-annual basis takes some getting used to, but confirmation if their new status will arrive if Mourinho rocks up in a United blazer and tie next summer.

Recruiting the controversial manager who specialises in quick-fire trophy winning will be viewed by some as a desperate move from a United board that have failed spectacularly to replicate their commercial success with glory on the field in the last three years.

Desperate is a word that describes United right now and that is why they look set to hit the emergency button by taking a chance on Mourinho.

How the mighty have fallen.

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