BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (AFP) - Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has sparked a frenzied reaction by Colombians for his treatment of beloved native son Radamel Falcao, earning the Dutch coach the nickname "Van Maal" (Mr Evil).
Falcao has seen little playing time since joining United last August in a loan deal worth £16 million (S$33 million). Van Gaal said last month the striker - who had missed the World Cup Finals as he recovered from a serious knee injury suffered while playing for Monaco last season - "has to prove himself" regardless of his price tag.
The snub has outraged Colombian fans, with fellow footballers, sports journalists and even celebrities taking to social media to slam van Gaal. Retired Colombian star Faustino Asprilla accused the Red Devils manager of bias against South American players.
"Riquelme, Rivaldo and now @Falcao. #VanMaal definitely has something against South Americans. @ManUtd need to act!!" the ex-striker wrote on Twitter, recalling van Gaal's treatment of Argentina's Juan Roman Riquelme and Brazil's Rivaldo when he managed Barcelona.
Colombian journalists have also heaped derision on van Gaal for banishing the striker from his starting line-up. "Anyone with blood in their veins knows benching Falcao is ridiculous. An eternal legend, eternal hate for van Gaal," tweeted sports photographer Andres Romero Torres.
Colombian TV star Lincoln Palomeque joined the chorus of derision after Falcao scored in United's 3-1 win over Leicester on Jan 31. "The worst thing @Falcao could do is score a goal because next match van Gaal will leave him on the bench. How did he fall into the hands of this bitter man!" he tweeted.