A day after
Manchester United's 3-2 loss to Wolfsburg, its exit from the UEFA Champions League looks even worse.
On Wednesday, hapless Chelsea, 14th in the Premier League, won its
group when it beat Porto, 2-0, and Arsenal came all the way back from opening with two straight defeats to beat Olympiakos, 3-0, on Olivier Giroud
's hat trick in Greece and keep its streak
alive of having qualified for the second stage in each of the past 15 campaigns. Manchester City had already won its group, leaving United as the only EPL team to fail to get out of its group.
The exit left United manager Louis van Gaal
preparing for life in the Europa League and the inevitable discussion of why he should be fired. David Moyes
got the boot toward the
end of his first season in charge, but at least he took United to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, where it fell to Bayern Munich. Van Gaal has no similar accomplishment he can point to in
his 16 months in charge.
Inevitably, talk was turned to who might succeed van Gaal at United. The Manchester City News drew up a short list
headed by Carlo Ancelotti
, Mauricio Pochettino
and Gary Neville
. It even included Jose Mourinho
whom United passed over in favor of Van Gaal.
The Daily Telegraph ran down a checklist of 10 accusations against the Dutchman
but found him guilty on only three charges.
-- His style of play is boring (Real Madrid scored as many goals in its 8-0 win over Malmo as United has in its last 11 games).
substitutions have no impact (No one like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
from the past to conjure up magic off the bench).
-- He is a dictator (Well, everyone knows LVG is a dictator.)
In other key areas, van Gaal was found not guilty on charges that his players signings have backfired and team selections are poor. Not everyone would agree with that assessment.
look at the recruitment," said
United star Roy Keane
. "They've thrown decent money at it, no special players at the moment. When you think of Man. United, you always associate them with one or two special players who can
produce. They seem to be lacking a few characters, a few leaders."
Van Gaal admitted United's UCL exit was indefensible
"At the moment I cannot defend myself
because we are out of the Champions League," the United manager said. "Every word that I say is the wrong word."
And he did just that, arguing United is better than it was last year. His
"But when you see the facts we went further in the Capital One Cup, qualified for the Champions League group, we have played all these matches and are still in a very good position
in the league. The facts say we are better than last year. That's my answer because I can only give facts."
United is only in the EPL race -- tied for third with
Manchester City, three points behind Leicester City -- because the EPL has seen the top clubs perform more poorly than they have ever done in recent memory. It's only one point better now than it was
at the same point last season when it ended up in fourth place, and it's averaging just 1.33 goals per game with four 0-0 draws in 15 games.
United couldn't have done any poorer in the
Capital One Cup because it lost to Milton Keynes Dons -- Milton Keynes Dons! -- 4-0 in its opening match last year. This season United exited the Capital One Cup in its second match to Middlesbrough,
another team it has no business ever losing to.
Van Gaal should be fired on principle alone for bringing up the Capital One Cup, a competition no one cares about.