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Louis Van Gaal in Fergie Time

Photo courtesy: Manutd.com
Photo courtesy: Manutd.com
Photo courtesy: Manutd.com

When Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge of Manchester United, there was a sense of belief around Old Trafford even when the Red Devils were trailing a game. Ferguson, famous for straining at the edge of his technical area, willing his team on, would invariably extract some extra seconds – called “Fergie Time” – from the referee at the end of added time in which United would score the goal that would save them.

And it seems current manager Louis Van Gaal is in a similar period of time at United – only he is on the wrong end.

Louis Van Gaal, as it were, is on borrowed time.

Funnily enough, the Dutchman was promise personified when he took the reins from a beleaguered David Moyes. In his first season in charge, Van Gaal managed to deliver his one job prerequisite – bring Manchester United back to the Champions League.

However, that seems to be the only positive in his spotty resume in England.

Van Gaal’s second season in charge of Manchester United has been shoddy at best. Though he will argue the fact that he managed to take the team to second on the league table, the fact remains, this is not the United fans and supporters love. Those timeless traits of adventure, belief, swagger – so essential to the United Way – and instilled deep in everyone donning the red jersey by the likes of Matt Busby, Ron Atkinson and Alex Ferguson, have been replaced by the words “philosophy”, “efficiency” and “preparation”. They may look good in a dictionary, but not on the Old Trafford pitch.

In his first season, there were glimpses of the (boring) future, but fans let it go, thinking this was all part of the rebuilding process. However, Season Two has brought with it a sickening understanding that that was as good as it gets.

When Wolfsburg defeated Manchester United, dumping the England club out of the Champions League, the rebuilding process was effectively over, as the building itself came crashing down.

United have not really recovered from that blow. They have not won a game in six attempts, including losing the last three. They have slumped from second spot on the table to fifth. They have one of the worst strike records in the league. Even with a near-full strength on the pitch against Norwich, United came up short.

Van Gaal, a unique orator, was left grasping for words: “The fact is that we have lost – that is the fact. The players have worked as a team but it was not good enough and we have to take care that it is good enough.”

He insisted the players still believed in him. “Yes – I have seen the reaction of the players to me afterwards.” But he cannot say the same of the fans watching United’s sorry display at Old Trafford. Van Gaal would have listened with some discomfort the cacophony of boos around the stadium as soon as the final whistle was sounded.

Was that a managerial death knell that reverberated around Old Trafford? Ed Woodward will know.

Woodward will be debating with the Glazers, who own the club, the future of Louis Van Gaal. United’s executive vice-chairman, Woodward has faced severe flak over the years for being unable to bring quality players to United, and he will be feeling the pressure to recruiting an able replacement for the current manager.

And he won’t have far to look.

Chelsea only last week sacked Jose Mourinho, one of the best managers plying his trade in the footballing world. The Portuguese manager is on the lookout of a new job, and Manchester United could fit the bill perfectly, especially since he admitted he wanted the job, before taking over at Chelsea three years ago.

So it all boils down to this: United may give Van Gaal two more games to turn the club’s fortunes around – one against Stoke on Boxing Day (December 26) and the other against Chelsea two days later. If he succeeds in getting positive results in both, he may yet have a job come the new year. If he fails … well, in “Fergie Time”, the final whistle is always around the corner.

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