Time for van Gaal to go, says Richard Buxton
After an embarrassing loss, van Gaal's time is surely up
(Wahbi Khazri 3, David de Gea 82-og)
MAN UNITED 1
(Anthony Martial 39)
Manchester United's changing of the guard continues to gather pace - Louis van Gaal is personally seeing to that.
Shy of rolling out a red carpet and fluffing the pillows in the Old Trafford hot seat, the 64-year-old could not have done any more to ensure that Jose Mourinho is given the most hospitable of welcomes.
Van Gaal always knew the day would come.
Naively, he believed that continuity would trump competitiveness; that it would be Ryan Giggs rather than Mourinho who would ultimately succeed him, at the end of the next season.
But after the shock loss to relegation candidates Sunderland in the Premier League's early kick-off last night, King Louis is dead - long live the Special One.
Not for the first time, the belligerent Dutchman saw yet another nail hammered into his managerial coffin.
His prospective road to redemption has been curtailed in its infancy after another indignant reversal - this time to Sam Allardyce's Sunderland.
Bullied, hustled and harried, and with the lack of joy in their play still so synonymous, van Gaal's team are limping at the business end of the season.
He simply cannot inspire his men.
Mourinho will continue to lurk in the shadows, plotting every facet of his Old Trafford blueprint.
He will need all the time and resources he can get - United's current crop are unfit for purpose as Champions League novices, let alone potential English Premier League title challengers.
Their first shot on target yesterday was half an hour in the making.
Those once supposedly at the vanguard of a footballing revolution have failed to cover themselves in glory.
Take Juan Mata, who was apparently signed from Chelsea to be the conductor of United's attack.
Zero assists and goals from open play in his last 19 domestic outings tell their own story.
Mourinho will need little justification from statistics when he off-loads the Spaniard for the second time in his career.
Others may well be looking over their shoulders under the former Chelsea manager.
His past history with Wayne Rooney will amount to little, not least with the England captain failing to replicate past glories this season.
Memphis Depay is almost certain to find himself joining van Gaal in the post-United wilderness.
In truth, the writing was on the wall for United's besieged manager from the second Wahbi Khazri's free-kick ghosted into David de Gea's net after just three minutes of play.
Not since overcoming Southampton in September have his side staged a comeback after spilling first blood.
To expect an Alex Ferguson-like renaissance would have been fanciful at best.
Van Gaal's philosophy is as unrelenting as the questions about Mourinho, which will continue to dog him until the day he finally stands down as United manager.
Travel sickness continues to get the better of United.
Spanish goalkeeper de Gea's own goal, deflecting Lamine Kone's powerful header over the line eight minutes from time, was the fourth time United have conceded at least two goals away from goal in six matches.
Haunting memories hang all about the Stadium of Light for United.
Under Ferguson, they lost the Premiership crown on the final day of the 2011-12 season, but came back stronger the following season.
There will be no such feat for van Gaal after the Red Devils' top four aspirations were almost extinguished.
Life will go on for both van Gaal and United; so will the negotiations with Jorge Mendes, Mourinho's agent.
It is now increasingly a case of when, rather than if, a denouement is reached.
United are a mess and the blame lies with van Gaal.
After last night's result, the board at Old Trafford will surely be convinced.
No. I Have to do my work and i do my work to my utmost best and i cannot do more. i shall prepare my players against Midtjylland (in the Europa League) 100 per cent and i shall do that always.
— The United boss on whether the loss at the Stadium of Light put him under more pressure
- Bournemouth 1 Stoke 3
- Crystal Palace 1 Watford 2
- Everton 0 West Brom 1
- Norwich 2 West Ham 2
- Swansea 0 Southampton 1
By the numbers
1 Sunderland have beaten Manchester United in the Premier League at the Stadium of Light for the first time in 14 attempts.
33 United's goal tally of 33 is their lowest after 26 league games since the 1989-90 season.
41 Their point total of 41 from 26 games this season is United's fewest in any Premier League campaign.