When the newly promoted Bournemouth defeated the Premier League giants over the weekend, it ended a horrible week for Van Gaal. He has seen his team crash out of the group stages in Champions League and then stutter to a loss at the Cherries. More than the losses, though, it is the nature of loss that is of more concern.
At no point in the current season did the ‘Red Devils’ looked in complete control of a match. It’s true that they dominated possession in every match but it didn’t translate into goals. The grand return to Champions League was swift and timid as the club was immediately relegated to Europa League. This, from a fairly easier group, is something the fans couldn’t digest.
No wonder then that matches at the Old Trafford this season are met more with chants of “Attack….attack” than a roar in support. Van Gaal will be quick to point out that his team is just four points off the summit (before Leicester’s game against Chelsea), has the best defensive record in the league and is one of the most injury-hit sides. None of this should be an excuse to the poor spirit shown by the current group, which would easily be one of the worst to wear the famous red and white.
Van Gaal infuriated the supporters further by saying that they live in the past and the ‘days of glory’ are over. The frustration is palpable as the lack of creativity and energy is quite evident. United’s away followers have shown their exasperation while the home supporters booed him more than they ever booed Liverpool.
Then there are unconfirmed reports of player unrest. One player reportedly claimed that he is ‘half the player’ under Van Gaal while Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick’s suggestions on altering the training were rejected. Any one whispering “Iron Tulip”?
Van Gaal is renowned for his success across various leagues and for promoting youngsters from the academy. To his credit, he did integrate a raft of youngsters into the main team but that is the end of it. The obsession with possession is killing the club as defense-first attitude is an anti-thesis to the attack-first nature of Old Trafford.
Strangely enough, there is still so much to play this season. None of the top teams is running away with the title making this one of the most open seasons in the near past. Under Van Gaal, though, United look destined to make up the bottom of top four or even miss the Champions League qualification altogether.
A minor section of the supporters will sympathize with Van Gaal if he is sacked now. Even that minor few will forget the Dutch manager if his successor can bring back the joy of watching United play. The old adage of sooner the better would be an apt summation on when Van Gaal should be sacked.