LVG favourite in the sack race, says Neil Humphreys
Louis van Gaal reportedly needs a win against Stoke today to keep his job at Old Trafford. But he is not the only boss whose head is on the chopping block.
PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS, BH FILE
1 LOUIS VAN GAAL
The Dutchman is already out of the Champions League, out of the top four and out of touch with reality.
Last week's loss to Norwich was the Red Devils' third straight defeat in all competitions. They haven't won in the league since Nov 21.
But it's the dearth of ideas that is so damning. Not only is Plan A not working, there clearly isn't a Plan B.
Well, there is. His name is Jose Mourinho. Or, if the United boardroom hits the jackpot and actually snares a genuinely world-class name, Pep Guardiola is available at the end of the season.
If van Gaal cannot muster a victory against Stoke today, the cacophony of boos will tell the dithering owners all they need to hear.
A second defeat by Chelsea on Tuesday morning (Singapore time) would be a race against the clock. United's owners cannot contemplate springtime for Guardiola if the winter becomes too bleak. But they'll act in time for the transfer window.
Mourinho is already waiting for the call.
- Official odds of getting the sack: 1/4
- Neil's verdict: Two defeats over Christmas will be read as van Gaal's obituary.
2 STEVE MCCLAREN
The former England manager promised fast, attractive possession football when he took over in the summer.
Against a woeful Aston Villa side, the flapping Magpies treated the ball as if it were radioactive. Villa's anaemic midfield somehow dominated with Newcastle managing just 47 per cent possession.
The attacking trio of Moussa Sissoko, Ayoze Perez and Georginio Wijnaldum counter-attack in short bursts, but they cannot sustain any semblance of creative momentum.
Ideally, owner Mike Ashley needs to open his dusty wallet in the transfer window, but he has more pressing concerns dealing with his Sports Direct company and allegations of an exploited workforce.
The easier option for the beleaguered businessman would be to sack McClaren - never a particularly popular choice on Tyneside - rather than put his hand in his pocket.
- Official odds of getting the sack: 10/1
- Neil's verdict: If Newcastle are in the bottom three in the New Year, McClaren will be thrown to the wolves.
3 MANUEL PELLEGRINI
With City still title contenders and safely qualified for the Champions League's knockout stages, Pellegrini appears safe, but not for those reasons.
One underlying caveat keeps the Chilean in his job. Guardiola isn't available until the end of the season.
Had he been free to take over now, Pellegrini would be glancing nervously over his shoulder.
The defeat by Arsenal on Monday emphasised City's exasperating inconsistency and their erratic transfer record under Pellegrini.
Vincent Kompany lacks sufficient back up, with Eliaquim Mangala turning into one of the biggest transfer flops in recent memory.
Sergio Aguero still misses a support act of Carlos Tevez's calibre and Yaya Toure is a fading force with inferior colleagues around him.
The Champions League offers the silver lining. But an early exit might force the impatient billionaires to clear the decks early and prepare for Guardiola's arrival.
- Official odds of getting the sack: 14/1
- Neil's verdict: Drop out of the top four or Europe and patience with Pellegrini will wear thin quickly.
4 ALEX NEIL
Norwich's outstanding victory at Manchester United bought Neil some time.
A first win in 26 years at Old Trafford has lifted the camp, but a tricky Boxing Day trip to White Hart Lane could make for a crash landing.
Still, if Cameron Jermone can retain his sharpness around the penalty box, with adequate support from veteran playmaker Wes Hoolahan, Neil should be safe to make his New Year's resolutions at Carrow Road.
- Official odds of getting the sack: 12/1
- Neil's verdict: Neil will keep his job by default. There are worse teams than Norwich in the bottom three.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you agree with Neil's choices? Who will get sacked first? E-mail your views to firstname.lastname@example.org
I think I was already sacked, I read. My colleague (Jose Mourinho) was here already... Has anybody in this room not a feeling to apologise to me? That’s what I’m wondering.
— Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal slamming the media ahead of today’s game against Stoke