Van Gaal pays the price

Jose Mourinho leaving his London home yesterday, as British media reported that he was to be appointed by Manchester United as Louis van Gaal’s successor.
Jose Mourinho leaving his London home yesterday, as British media reported that he was to be appointed by Manchester United as Louis van Gaal’s successor. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Prolonged delay over official announcement as United mired in farcical severance process

LONDON • Louis van Gaal has been sacked as manager of Manchester United, several British media outlets reported yesterday, amid widespread speculation that he will be replaced by Jose Mourinho.

Both van Gaal and leading employment lawyer Paul Gilroy, who acted for David Moyes when he was sacked as manager by United in 2014, were seen entering United's Carrington training ground in the morning for talks with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

The former Netherlands boss is believed to earn around £6.4 million (S$12.8 million) a year and was discussing severance terms, noted the BBC.

It added that United would make a statement about van Gaal in the afternoon but there was no official confirmation from United, 20-times English champions, about the Dutchman at press time. The 64-year-old still has a season remaining on his three-year contract.

It is understood that his Dutch coaching staff - including United assistant coach Albert Stuivenberg and goalkeeper coach Frans Hoek - have also left the club with immediate effect.

  • Mourinho's to-do list

    It promises to be a busy summer at Old Trafford should Jose Mourinho take over at Manchester United. The Portuguese will have his hands full settling these major issues.

    A United dressing room

    Mourinho can be an abrasive character but he inspires a fierce loyalty in those who buy into his methods. If he can create the kind of us-versus-them atmosphere that has been missing since Alex Ferguson's time, it will go a long way to unifying a sometimes mutinous squad.

    Clear the deadwood

    Only Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and Daley Blind will go down as clear successes despite the £250 million-plus (more than S$493 million) spent by van Gaal across four transfer windows.

    The futures of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marcos Rojo, Morgan Schneiderlin, Phil Jones, Marouane Fellaini and Memphis Depay are uncertain and Mourinho must decide - and quickly - who he can trust.

    Hanging on to David de Gea

    The goalkeeper was at loggerheads with van Gaal and a return to his native Spain in the summer seemed imminent. Mourinho's arrival should change that but de Gea, named the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year for a third consecutive season by United fans, will still need to be convinced that the lack of Champions League football next season is not a reason to seek a move away.

    Restoring belief in the terraces

    For more than two decades, United supporters were accustomed to a swashbuckling style by a team that scored goals. The loyal fans have been starved of entertainment during van Gaal's reign and lethargy has seeped into the stands. The stage is set for the charismatic Mourinho to rouse the Theatre of Dreams.

    Working out the Wayne Rooney conundrum

    The club captain is also the lightning rod for disgruntled supporters yet the 30-year-old was the difference in United's FA Cup win and has thrived in the deep-lying midfield berth. Mourinho came close to signing Rooney for Chelsea during the summer of 2013, so he is an admirer. Now he must decide where precisely to deploy the England captain as he enters the autumn of his career.

    THE GUARDIAN

James Ducker, the northern football correspondent of Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, had tweeted: "Paul Gilroy QC finalising Van Gaal's severance package now... £5m pay off. Expect an announcement lunchtime."

There was another £400,000 bonus for winning the FA Cup but Saturday's success at Wembley - United's first trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson delivered the Premier League title in 2013 in his last season before retirement - has appeared insufficient to prevent van Gaal from losing his job.

The Old Trafford club finished fourth in the 2014-15 Premier League season - his first year in charge - and qualified for the lucrative Champions League.

But they finished fifth this term and will play in the Europa League next season. They scored 49 league goals, their lowest total since 1989-90.

The expected arrival of Mourinho - a removal van company was photographed outside his London home yesterday afternoon - has received mixed responses from pundits and fans alike.

The Portugese, seen by many as a divisive figure, was sacked by Chelsea last December, just seven months after leading the London club to the Premier League title.

Nevertheless, Mourinho has won eight league titles, two Champions League crowns and one Uefa Cup and has a proven track record.

Gary Lineker, the Match of the Day presenter and former England striker, tweeted: "One thing is for sure, Mourinho is a brilliant coach and a winner. As close as you could ever get in football to guaranteeing success."

That view was shared by former United midfielder Ray Wilkins, who noted that Mourinho was the man to revitalise the club.

"He is a winner - there is no two ways about it," Wilkins, also a former Chelsea assistant manager, told talkSPORT radio. "When he goes to a club, normally he wins a big trophy within the first couple of years."

Meanwhile, the Manchester Evening News reported that club legend and assistant manager Ryan Giggs "will turn down any offer to become part of Jose Mourinho's backroom team".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2016, with the headline 'Van Gaal pays the price'. Print Edition | Subscribe