Football: More pressure builds on van Gaal

Louis van Gaal looks dejected after the game between Manchester United and Norwich City.
Louis van Gaal looks dejected after the game between Manchester United and Norwich City. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Louis van Gaal was subjected to jeers from home fans near the touchline as he left the pitch following a third successive Manchester United defeat on Saturday, yet he was probably more concerned by the chant the Norwich supporters kept up throughout the game: "Jose Mourinho is taking your job."

With former United star defender Rio Ferdinand suggesting Pep Guardiola might be a better option and publicly urging his former club to act swiftly and decisively before the Bayern Munich coach goes somewhere else, it seems to be open season on the faltering Dutch manager and even van Gaal accepted it following Saturday's humbling 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford.

"I think I can turn the situation around," he said. "My record suggests I am a very successful manager, although maybe I should say I was a very successful manager."

While Guardiola has long been a Manchester City target, Mourinho is available now and indicated on Saturday that he will not be taking a break but hopes to make a quick return to the game.

He is a manager United considered as a successor to Alex Ferguson, before passing over the Portuguese in favour of David Moyes.

That decision did not end well and now, with the recruitment of van Gaal also becoming problematic, many supporters would like to see the club bite the bullet and reverse their original decision.

The defeat by the Canaries certainly felt like a defining moment, not least when assistant manager Ryan Giggs was pictured trying to rouse the players from the sideline and in the rain, in contrast to the steadfastly seated Dutch manager.

Van Gaal is perfectly aware of how football works and knows his job is in jeopardy if the present run of results continues.

"Of course I am worried," he said. "The team need to believe in a manager, that is very important, and when you lose games like this, that belief decreases."

He has been in Manchester for 18 months now and is still trying to turn a corner. Unless results improve dramatically, the club will sooner or later have to confront the fact that the whole succession has been botched.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2015, with the headline 'More pressure builds on van Gaal'. Print Edition | Subscribe