Sack van Gaal? Why Man Utd Fans Should Be Careful What They Wish For
Man Utd fans are awaiting the arrival of Jose Mourinho as Louis van Gaal’s replacement this summer but here is why they should be careful what they wish for
When Louis van Gaal was appointed Barcelona manager in 1997, the outgoing Sir Bobby Robson pulled his successor aside to extol the virtues of one of his staff. Van Gaal was impressed with the ‘arrogant’ young man Robson described , hiring him and eventually trusting his opinion more than any of his close advisers.
That man was José Mourinho, the bookie’s favourite to replace his former mentor this Summer at Old Trafford. United fans are salivating at the prospect of the Portuguese – but should they be careful what they wish for?
At first glance, this season has been a disaster. United have always been a team renowned for their flair. Sir Matt Busby felt it was the obligation of the team to provide colour and entertainment to the dreary, industrial lives of the city’s football fans, and it’s a legacy they always fulfilled under Sir Alex Ferguson, winning 38 trophies with a thrilling, cavalier brand of football.
The style under van Gaal has been more prosaic, with the Old Trafford faithful becoming desperate at the lack of goals and excitement.
For all their weaknesses though, United are only 5 points off Arsenal in 3rd place. Their league form is improving, with three wins in their last four games including a derby victory over Manchester City at Eastlands. Their run-in could prove relatively sticky, with fixtures against Tottenham and Leicester, but if they can sustain their league form at this crucial time then the Carrington outfit could secure an automatic Champions League spot come May.
Van Gaal has also uncovered a clutch of raw, promising players from the United youth ranks. Marcus Rashford, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Jesse Lingard have all come to the fore this season. If anybody knows quality youth players it’s the Dutchman, who gave debuts to Clarence Seedorf, Xavi and Thomas Müller amongst many others.
At times, van Gaal’s eccentric training and abrasive personality may have alienated his players – there were rumors of discontent at his methods last year. United’s unfamiliar place down in sixth is also cause for concern.
In November 2009, van Gaal found himself in a similar situation. Bayern Munich, with whom he’d signed in July, were languishing in 7th place in the Bundesliga. Already the fans and the press smelled blood, and there was dismay over his apparent obsession with tactics.
By May 2010, the Bavarians were League and Cup Winners, just missing out on European glory to Mourinho’s Inter and playing a scintillating brand of attacking football. Of course, these trophies are all beyond United this year, but it demonstrates the Dutchman’s ability – give him time, and he will get it right. There’s no reason why he can’t bring the title back to Manchester, just as he did in Amsterdam, Alkmaar and Barcelona.
It remains to be seen whether the former Ajax and Holland coach will be given that time. With José breathing down his neck, results will need to go in his favour consistently if he wants to keep his job. But there may be life in the old dog yet.
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