Sunday 19 November 2017

Six reasons why Manchester United should NOT sack Louis van Gaal now

Louis van Gaal is under serious pressure after the demoralising loss in Denmark last night
Louis van Gaal is under serious pressure after the demoralising loss in Denmark last night

Jack de Menezes

Man United supporters have lost patience with Louis van Gaal, but Jack de Menezes argues why the Dutchman should be given more time to save United's season.

1. Manchester United have 13 injury concerns – more than any other Premier League club

Any team – even Barcelona – would struggle to fire on all cylinders with 13 first-team members ruled out, but that’s exactly what happened for Louis van Gaal this week. After heading to Denmark with 12 players ruled out through a combination of injury and illness, goalkeeper David De Gea pulled out of the side during the warm-up just to make things worse.

United’s side still had enough quality that is should have overcome the threat of Midtjylland, but blips do happen when you have to throw together an XI that have never played football together before. Can Van Gaal be to blame for having three days to put together what is essentially a brand new team? It would be difficult to argue that anyone could have guaranteed a victory under such circumstances.

Wayne Rooney is out injured

2. United aren't out of the Europa League...yet

A 2-1 defeat against inferior opposition is never a welcome result, but away from home it's not disastrous. The outcome is that this United team, short on goals as it is, only need to win 1-0 to progress to the Europa League last-16. Van Gaal should be allowed to see out the tie at least as its very possible Midtjylland will crack under the pressure of playing at Old Trafford. Should United lose the second leg then Van Gaal's position will be almost untenable, but he deserves the chance to try and see out the last-32 clash.

Manchester United players after their defeat in Denmark

3. Would United’s youth team beat the Danish champions?

It’s a strange question, but that’s what the scenario at Old Trafford is nearing. Right-back Donald Love was thrown into the deep end as he was handed his first start – and second competitive appearance – in a European fixture, while Paddy McNair is yet to prove that he warrants a place in United’s first-team. Even Jesse Lingard, who has been used regularly by Van Gaal this season, has relative inexperience given he wasn’t part of the squad last season.

There’s a case to argue that a number of these players called up due to the number of injuries would not stand a chance against a European league champion side, even if it is of the Danish Superliga. Midtjylland deserve more credit than they were shown in the build-up to the game, and the reaction that United’s “worst ever defeat” is slightly disrespectful to their conquerors.

4. Two victories can make United’s position look very different

If United beat Shrewsbury Town on Monday and overturn the 2-1 deficit against Midtjylland next Thursday, will they still be down in the doldrums? It’s unlikely, given they’ll be through to the FA Cup sixth round – just two games away from the final – and into the last-16 of the Europa League where they would hope to have a number of their injury absentees back in action.

It’s worth pointing out that United, however poor they have been this season, are only six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City and face their fierce rivals at the Etihad Stadium on March 20. A top-four finish cannot be ruled out, and though it seems incredibly unlikely, United stand a good chance of beating City next month. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have been beaten by Arsenal, Leicester and Tottenham so far this season, and the next highest-ranked club to play them would be United. With City struggling against their nearest rivals, United could take full advantage and provide a momentum boost in the run-in to the end of the season.

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini before the match Reuters / Andrew Yates

5. If Giggs takes over, success is not a given

The appointment of Mourinho is still not a given due to the partial opposition to his appointment at United. That leaves current assistant manager, Ryan Giggs, in the frame to take the job if United were so sack Van Gaal now. The United legend has, of course, taken the interim job in the past having replaced David Moyes in 2014 when he was still a player for the club.

His record was hardly impressive. Two wins, including an opening 4-0 rout of Norwich, was undone by a 1-0 defeat by Sunderland and a 1-1 draw at Southampton on the final day to leave the Welshman with a 50% win ratio. With no other managerial experience to speak of, Giggs remains a risky appointment.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal and assistant manager Ryan Giggs

6. Will Jose Mourinho be able to get more out of this current United squad?

Jose Mourinho’s talents remain unquestioned, no matter how poor Chelsea’s form was under his stewardship this season. But is the Portuguese capable of working miracles? The simple matter is this United squad clearly aren’t good enough to meet the lofty expectations at Old Trafford, and even with a manager of Mourinho’s calibre at the helm, would they be a more aesthetically pleasing team? The smart money suggests a summer overhaul is needed.

Speculation has linked Jose Mourinho, left, with a move to replace Louis van Gaal, right, at Manchester United

Independent News Service

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