Van Gaal still not out of the woods

Manager's future at United will depend on how he negotiates upcoming difficult games

LONDON • With tricky fixtures ahead for Manchester United, Louis van Gaal's future is expected to return to the spotlight should his side slip up again.

United host third-tier Sheffield United in the FA Cup third round tomorrow, before Premier League ties at Newcastle, Liverpool and the home game against Southampton.

Van Gaal has been adamant that he had the support of the Old Trafford board during a difficult December, when United failed to win a match, slipped out of the top four in the Premier League and exited the Champions League.

But it has emerged that United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward had contacted Carlo Ancelotti over the possibility of a summer move to the club.

According to the Daily Mail, Woodward got in touch with the Italian in the middle of November, when Ancelotti was still without a job following his sacking by Real Madrid.

But the 56-year-old was already in talks to join Bayern Munich. And the Bavarian giants confirmed last month that Ancelotti would succeed Pep Guardiola at the end of the season.

United declined to comment about the approach to Ancelotti, added the British newspaper.

United's 2-1 league win over Swansea on Saturday, which came after a goalless draw with champions Chelsea, has gone some way in easing the pressure on van Gaal.

The Dutchman is expected to receive backing from the club during this month's transfer window, with Lazio forward Felipe Anderson a leading target.

Reports in England say United are set to table an offer of £36.9 million (S$77.1 million) to take the Brazilian to Old Trafford, although Anderson is said to be hanging on at the Serie A club to make sure he receives the bonus payment that has been promised to him as part of his buyout clause.

Lazio coach Stefano Pioli on Wednesday slammed his star after substituting the 22-year-old at half-time of a goal-less draw with Carpi at the Stadio Olimpico.

"I believe he can do a lot more. I know it and he knows it," Pioli said.

Anderson inspired Lazio in the second half of last season to a third-place league finish, but outside interest in his services has coincided with a lull in his performances for the capital side this term.

Meanwhile, Belgian winger Adnan Januzaj will return to United for the rest of the season after the club cut short his loan spell at Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.

The 20-year-old left Old Trafford last year in search of more first-team opportunities but has endured a disappointing spell in Germany, where he has started only three matches. He has made 12 appearances for Dortmund in total.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2016, with the headline 'VAN GAAL STILL NOT OUT OF THE WOODS'. Print Edition | Subscribe