It couldn’t happen, could it? Since Manchester United’s dismal December the foremost assumption has been that the Reds’ fate lies outside the top four, and with it a second year in three away from the Champions League. Yet, with just three Premier League games remaining, Louis van Gaal’s side is hot on the coat-tails of Manchester City, with an FA Cup final to come. Salvation for Van Gaal, perhaps, and possible redemption for a group of players that has largely underwhelmed.
You know the meme about Christian Grey’s unconventional tastes? It could well be due an update following Louis van Gaal’s revealing interview in the aftermath of Manchester United’s draw with Leicester City at the weekend. Pulling hair, says the Dutchman, is allowed in “sex masochism” but not on the pitch – this despite Robert Huth’s best efforts to put Marouane Fellaini off his A-game. Fellaini hit the Leicester defender where it hurts, though nobody was sure whether Huth actually likes that sort of thing. Either way, it was hardly a lover’s touch.
Did you hear the one about Louis van Gaal’s sex life? It was a lot more entertaining than his football team. Once again this week Van Gaal proved better value for money off the pitch than on it as United laboured to a score draw against Leicester City at Old Trafford. The Dutchman called it United’s “best performance of the season” – although he has a very small pool of decent performances to pick from.
Sore head this morning? You should have after Manchester United beat Everton at Wembley to reach the FA Cup final, following shortly on from another solid Premier League win. Could Louis van Gaal’s team make a late charge to reach the Champions League and end the season with silverware?
They say a week is a long time in football. It is when it comes to Louis van Gaal’s unique brand of football. One step forward, how many back? Manchester United’s victory over West Ham in the FA Cup brought rare cheer on the road, only for the Reds’ old limitations to be exposed once again as the Premier League’s worst team, Aston Villa, visited Old Trafford. Same on Louis van Gaaal, same old performance then.
There is nothing inherently unacceptable in scrappy a 1-0 victory. After all, with just five games to go in the Premier League season, three points carry a little more significance than normal – especially with Manchester United chasing unlikely qualification for the Champions League. They were three points that keep the pressure on Arsenal and Manchester City, even if United’s chances of returning to the top table of European football remain slim.
Another week, another chance for Louis van Gaal to undo any good previously done. After all, Manchester United’s fine performance and excellent result in the FA Cup this week will count for little if Van Gaal’s side fails to beat Aston Villa on Saturday. The Dutchman’s side couldn’t fail, could it?
“The challenge was bigger for me at Manchester United. I am sorry for Tottenham, but Manchester United are a bigger club.”
Louis van Gaal doesn’t regret choosing United over Spurs despite his side’s humiliating 3-0 defeat at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Van Gaal may not regret choosing United, but United fans are certainly ruing his decision. There us little doubt Spurs supporters must have chuckled at the suggestion Van Gaal is “sorry” that the London club missed out on the ‘genius’ veteran manager.
The fun, such as it was, couldn’t last. Manchester United’s run of four wins in five Premier League games was always a mirage, containing as it did a series of narrow victories and largely unimpressive performances. It came home to roost as Louis van Gaal’s side was thrashed at Tottenham Hotspur. The Dutchman claimed, ridiculously, that his side was “an equal” of Spurs – an equal in all but good football and scoring goals.
It was, perhaps, the absolute nadir of Louis van Gaal’s miserable two-year reign as Manchester United manager. The Reds’ devastating loss at Tottenham Hotspur probably excludes Van Gaal’s team from next season’s Champions League competition, although by then it certainly won’t be the Dutchman in charge. It was, however, the manner of Sunday’s defeat that shocked most. Disjointed to the point of chaos, disfigured beyond horror, this was a United side utterly blown-away by Spurs – the same team Sir Alex Ferguson used to so pithily dismiss. The real horror came not with defeat, though, but Van Gaal’s baffling approach to it.