Once upon a time Manchester United’s fixtures against Tottenham Hotspur were settled before a ball was kicked. United’s record at White Hart Lane is excellent – and the side has not lost there since 2001. However, long gone are the days when Sir Alex Ferguson could construct Tottenham’s downfall with three simple words: “Lads… It’s Tottenham.” It doesn’t do the North London side justice; the balance of power is shifting in the Premier League.
For once, the international break was a welcome distraction, and not just an unnecessary fixture in the calendar. Manchester United supporters enjoyed work, head held high, knowing the team couldn’t let them down – and with a glow of recent victory over Manchester City still fresh. All good things must come to an end though and the Premier League returns with United welcoming Everton to Old Trafford, chasing fourth, and with it a Champions League spot.
It wasn’t so long ago that English football was in awe of Manchester’s clubs. For a time the city had legitimate claim to being the world’s capital of football, with two powerhouse clubs trading titles for four years. The United-City rivalry has been at the centre of some of the best conclusions to a Premier League season in recent years, yet, as Manchester United prepares to travel across town to face neighbours City on Sunday, the fixture is hardly talk of the town, let alone the nation.
In a season of frustrating mediocrity Louis van Gaal has few chances left to achieve redemption. Despite the Dutchman’s, frankly, ludicrous assertion that his “philosophy” is working, Van Gaal’s time at Old Trafford has been little short of a catastrophe. With the club some 13 points shy of the Premier League summit, facing a tough FA Cup replay at West Ham United, and starting Thursday night’s Europa League game two goals down to Liverpool, it is likely Van Gaal will leave Old Trafford having presided over two barren years.
“When you analyse what we’ve done this season and last season, you cannot say it isn’t working.” Words of a delusional Louis van Gaal ahead of Manchester United’s FA Cup quarter-final with West Ham United at Old Trafford. United supporters have kept a remarkable degree of patience over the last 20 months, calmly accepting poor performances and indifferent results as part of the rebuilding process. After Thursday’s defeat at Anfield that patience has snapped.
Perspective can be hard to find; near impossible in football. Louis van Gaal’s? Seemingly ebbing away. It is, says the Dutchman, not his side’s form that is erratic, but “the media that is inconsistent.” It was, he says, not such a bad thing that his team lost at 19th-placed Sunderland, but that the “media makes it bigger than it is.” It is, he claims, not another campaign racing towards the scrap-heap, but a season “not as bad as the media are writing or telling to the fans.” Presumably it is also the media’s fault that Van Gaal’s side has won just three of its past 10 Premier League matches. Read More
“We are in a lot of competitions, just six points behind Manchester City, we have a lot of chances, a lot of titles to fight for. It isn’t easy, but it is possible.” Fighting talk or another delusional claim by Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal? Perhaps both, yet with a place in the FA Cup quarter-final now secure, Van Gaal looks forward to a tricky week with more confidence than before. Read More
“We’re f*cking sh*t,” was the cry from Manchester United’s travelling fans, who paid £71 to watch, possibly, the worst night in the club’s post-Sir Alex Ferguson history. Louis van Gaal’s side was torn apart by Midtjylland last week – a team that had not played since the 10 December. The Reds truly hit rock bottom in Jutland. Read More
As one door closes, another opens. Manchester United’s top four ambitions were dealt a significant blow last weekend as the Reds lost 2-1 to a relegation-threatened Sunderland side. It all but ended United’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next season. In a week, and indeed a season, where mediocrity has followed United round like a bad smell, few should be surprised that Louis van Gaal’s side finds itself travelling to Denmark on a Thursday night to try and salvage another season. Read More
In a week where all the talk around Manchester United has been firmly centred off the pitch it may have escaped many observers that the Reds travel to Sunderland on Saturday searching for the three most important points of the season. Rumours that José Mourinho is coming dominated the headlines early in the week, with many pundits claiming a deal has been completed for the former Chelsea boss to succeed Louis van Gaal in the summer. Then, on Thursday, executive vice chairman Ed Woodward briefed investors that the club is confident of breaking half a billion in revenue by the end of the year. Supporters might be forgiven for thinking everything is going well at Old Trafford. Read More