5 Ways Manchester United Will Improve When Louis van Gaal Is Sacked
Louis van Gaal's Manchester United are a pretty unimpressive affair at the moment. Back-to-back defeats against Sunderland and FC Midtjylland have heaped pressure on their beleaguered manager, and it is surely—surely—only a matter of time until he gets the boot.
Things should improve when he leaves, assuming United get the right replacement and manage the transition effectively. Of course, the unlikely possibility that things will improve with him at the helm does still exist, but visualising that requires an enormous leap of imagination.
Miracle recoveries aside, here are five things that will get better when Van Gaal is finally given his marching orders.
Jamie Jackson and Ed Aarons of the Guardian reported that "Louis van Gaal has lost the confidence of a group of senior Manchester United players and Jose Mourinho is their preferred option as his replacement."
Back in December, Neil Custis of the Sun reported: "The structure and training around matches remains the same every week and it is starting to get the players down."
If they were down in December, it is unlikely they are happier now. Indeed, when Jesse Lingard and Wayne Rooney spoke about the side having increased freedom against Derby County in their FA Cup fourth-round away win, Van Gaal responded by denying any such freedom existed, per FourFourTwo. Interestingly, since Van Gaal said that, United have retreated into their collective shell.
If a new manager offers United's squad a longer leash, he will find happier players as a result.
The trip to FC Midtjylland marked a low point for United's fans.
There is a song frequently taken up by the Stretford End, to the tune of the Four Seasons classic "December 1963 (Oh What a Night)." The lyrics, referencing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dramatic late UEFA Champions League-winning goal, read: "Oh what a night. Late in May in 1999, Ole scored a goal in injury time. What a feeling, what a night."
The version heard on television coverage of United's game in Denmark had been adapted. "Oh what a night. Freezing cold on a Thursday night." The final line—to paraphrase for the sake of removing profanity—was adapted to a phrase meaning "and the football is not very good."
Fans are sick of Van Gaal, sick of the style of play and sick of the results. There will be a huge uplift in collective mood when he is replaced.
More Fluent Football
And speaking of the style of football...
United's best performance of the season so far came at home against Stoke City at the start of February. It was, paradoxically, just about the least Van Gaalian of all United's games this season. The Red Devils had just 45.5 per cent of possession, per WhoScored.com. That figure is the least of any home game all campaign.
For the most part, the football on offer has been tedious, slow, possession-obsessed and devoid of much in the way of impact. United have been involved in seven 0-0 draws in 2015/16, six at home. In this regard, whoever comes next is almost certain to be an improvement.
Less Speculation on the Next Manager
Of course, one of the things about this apparently interminable limbo United have been in since the wheels came off the season in December is that there is a lot of tiresome speculation.
The latest rumour, per David McDonnell of the Mirror, is that "executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is believed to have contacted [Jose Mourinho's] agent to see if he will take over BEFORE the end of this season." That is the latest of many, many stories on the subject.
Ryan Giggs waits in the wings, Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino has been linked to the job, per the Evening Standard, and the whole thing feels like a soap opera. The end of this particular period of speculation will come as a relief.
The Return of Hope
Speaking entirely personally, it took a long time to lose hope in Van Gaal. The cries for his head had begun long before the point of no return seemed to have arrived.
But arrive it most certainly seems to have done. Trying to conjure up reasons to believe he can turn this mess around—a mess that is much of his own making—is getting harder and harder. No one seems happy with any of it.
So a new manager will bring a fresh dose of much-needed optimism. The way the post-Sir Alex Ferguson years have gone, it will probably not last all that long. But for now, a little hope is enough.
The end of the Van Gaal reign will bring that hope. It cannot come too soon.