Commentary

Van Gaal's case for progress at Man United is a joke

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, Pep Guardiola, 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).
-- His 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.

"You look at the recruitment," said former 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 case:

"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."

The 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.
1 comment about "Van Gaal's case for progress at Man United is a joke".
  1. R2 Dad, December 10, 2015 at 9:33 a.m.

    Look how Klopp has charmed, even though Liverpool still struggles. His English is spotty but the media like him. Ancelotti is the only available candidate who can manage the politics and convince in English. Pep can do the work, but will he give the media what they want? Not sure mid-season is the right time for big clubs to transition. Smells of desperation. They still do it but it's not a relegation battle so try to enjoy the season and reboot in June.

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