Louis van Gaal has reportedly been given three games to turn things around at Manchester United in the wake of their 2-1 UEFA Europa League defeat to Midtjylland on Thursday or he could find his time at Old Trafford brought to a premature end.
That's according to James Robson of the Manchester Evening News, who noted the Dutchman has just one week to "save his job" as United's season largely hangs in the balance on their next three fixtures: Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup on Monday, the second leg with Midtjylland on Thursday and a visit from Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.
Failure to overcome the first two opponents would put an end to any hopes of the Red Devils achieving silverware this season, while another defeat in the league would put their slim chance of making the top four in further jeopardy.
United have failed to convince under Van Gaal throughout the campaign, and a rare display of attacking prowess and flair in the 3-0 win over Stoke City at the start of February appears to have been a false dawn, with the club slipping to 2-1 defeats to relegation candidates Sunderland and Danish side Midtjylland in their last two outings.
Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News and football writer Liam Canning added further damning context to the latter defeat:
Midtjylland hadn't played in two months before tonight. That was worse than Olympiakos from United. Change remains essential. #mufc— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) February 18, 2016
Man United join Bangor City and The New Saints as the only 3 teams to concede more than one goal in a European away game against Midtjylland— Liam (@OffsideLiam) February 19, 2016
Rob Dawson, also of the Manchester Evening News, condemned the display:
Thought second half at Sunderland was worst of the season. Was wrong, that was. Could have been five if not for Romero. Embarrassing.— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonMEN) February 18, 2016
Indeed, Luckhurst believes United should replace Van Gaal as manager (contains NSFW language):
#mufc fans have shown gallows humour since Palace, with exception of Southampton last month. Deserve better football and a better manager.— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) February 18, 2016
Football writer Nooruddean Choudry wryly noted the Dutchman has repeatedly been given the opportunity to turn things around to little avail:
Van Gaal given time to rescue title hopes— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) February 19, 2016
Van Gaal given time to rescue top 4 hopes
Van Gaal given time to rescue tying own shoelaces hopes
With Pep Guardiola taking over at Manchester City in the summer, Chelsea likely to hire another top manager of their own and Arsenal slowly but steadily improving—not to mention the likes of Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur competing with them—it's crucial for United to return to their elite status as soon as possible lest they be left behind by their rivals.
Should United sack Van Gaal?
Though it's important for coaches to be given time to implement their ideas, the Red Devils are arguably getting worse under Van Gaal; though they were hardly inspiring under David Moyes in 2013/14 or in the 64-year-old's first campaign in charge last term, they were better than they have been this year.
Even successful results in their next three games will do little to change that, as it could just as easily prove to be another minor boost to their fortunes.
Van Gaal may well remain in charge until the end of the season regardless of the outcomes of those matches, though should United fail to show at least some signs of life, it wouldn't be surprising if the club did act to remove him.