Van Gaal has spent big money and spent it badly
United manager paying price for poor signings but I cannot see the club sacking him ... yet
If United wanted Jose they would have done it. They will go for Simeone or Guardiola
Manchester United are a club devoid of excitement and Louis van Gaal’s ego has come crashing back down to earth with an almighty bump. United are an average team with average players and the nightmare scenario of missing out on the top four is now looking a genuine possibility.
The supporters have seen enough, they were booing after just 23 minutes of the game against Southampton, and all the attention is on Van Gaal and how much longer he can stay in charge.
He has had one big reality check this season and, just like with Jose Mourinho, he has discovered that it is not all about him, it is about the players. If you have got good players it is the easiest job in the world – but if, like United, you have got average players it is the hardest.
Van Gaal has now got a worse record than David Moyes at this stage of the season and that statistic about United not scoring in a first half at Old Trafford for 11 matches is amazing.
The last time they scored a firsthalf goal at home was at the end of September against Wolfsburg in the Champions League – and even that was a penalty!
He has achieved a lot in his career but these past 12 months have shown that he is not invincible. It seems like he has tried everything and none of it has worked. He has tried three at the back with wing-backs, he’s tried a back four yet they still do not set the world alight because there is no sparkle at the top of the pitch.
With every bad result, and there have been quite a few this season, the pressure cranks up a notch and we see all the headlines about Van Gaal facing the sack or resigning from his post.
But I cannot see anything happening with Van Gaal because, quite simply, if United wanted to get rid of him they would have done it by now.
Van Gaal will still think he can achieve things this season, despite all the struggles, and sacking the manager now would be effectively writing the season off.
If the United board had wanted to appoint Mourinho they would have done it already so I think they will wait until the summer and go for somebody like Pep Guardiola or Diego Simeone, if they miss out on the top four.
United will have no problems attracting managers of that calibre because of their reputation but those guys are simply not available at the moment so I fully expect Van Gaal to battle on.
Nobody was really that surprised when Southampton went to Old Trafford and won, which tells you everything about the current United squad.
They are top-six material but that is about it. They have got nobody special, no exciting individuals and nobody that can change the game, like a Ryan Giggs, or control the game like Paul Scholes used to do every week.
United supporters are used to winning titles and playing sparkling football but those players are not there any more. You are only as good as your players. Finishing in the top four is now going to be very difficult, surely a minimum target for Van Gaal and the United board at the start of the season.
Leicester City just are not showing any signs of stopping, Arsenal and Manchester City are in there and you cannot rule Tottenham Hotspur out of it because they are really running into form and could even win the league.
Missing out on the Champions League next season would be a disaster for United and is likely to have a knock-on effect on who they can sign in the summer.
They made a mess of the Champions League this season anyway, failing to qualify from a group that I think they should have coasted through.
United have also underlined just how important recruitment is for clubs nowadays.
They have spent a lot of money and spent it badly.
I would love to know who signed those players. What always amazes me is that you never see the recruitment people when things go wrong. It’s been the same at Liverpool and Aston Villa, the managers are expected to just go in there and wave a magic wand.
I remember my first job at Bournemouth, I had a visit from Alec Stock, a great manager who worked wonders at Fulham. My office was a mess and the desk was untidy, so I apologised.
Alec said: “You won’t get the sack because your desk is untidy Harry, you get the sack when you lose games and sign bad players.”
It has always stuck with me and it still resonates to this day, especially when you look at the predicament of clubs like Manchester United.
They are locked in a struggle and the heat is really on the manager – but I would still be surprised if he leaves the club this season.
Ángel di María Fee £59.7m Games 24 + 8 sub
Goals 11 One underwhelming year at Old Trafford before a move to PSG – at a loss of nearly £16m – hardly represents inspired business.
£36m (rising to £61.5m) Games 24 + 3 sub
Goals 8 Jury out. There have been
glimpses of promise though little to suggest huge eventual fee is money well