Van Gaal must pay the price for failure
Even an FA Cup triumph cannot mask the failings of this season
MAN UNITED 3
(Wayne Rooney 43, Marcus Rashford 74, Ashley Young 87)
(Chris Smalling 90+3-og)
That Manchester United came tantalisingly close to Champions League qualification rubbed more salt onto the wound.
The 3-1 win over Bournemouth yesterday morning (Singapore time) saw the club finish fifth, level on points with bitter rivals Manchester City but pipped to fourth by only goal difference.
The cacophony of boos and abuse that accompanied Louis van Gaal's end-of-season speech at Old Trafford laid bare the widespread discontent that no longer remained trapped in its underbelly.
The Man United faithful have made clear that tepid football and delusion have no place on their fabled pitch.
Whatever the outcome of their FA Cup final, against Crystal Palace on Sunday morning, it won't conceal the bleeding obvious.
The only people who want the Dutchman to stay as United manager are those who come from rival clubs, and that says a lot.
Van Gaal (far left) has clearly overstayed his welcome, but he is adamant he won't be sacked.
"Yes," said the 64-year-old Dutchman, when asked if he expects to remain in the dugout at Old Trafford next season. "Because I have signed a three-year contract."
The truth is, United under his guidance have gone off the track.
Now, they are in danger of plunging down the cliff.
Disaster inevitably awaits a man who loses touch with reality.
His excuses for the dismal campaign have gone from contentious to downright bizarre.
And there have been plenty.
According to him, this season's Premiership champions Leicester City have had an advantage in the transfer market.
This is despite Claudio Ranieri's team costing less than one-tenth of the estimated £250 million ($500m) van Gaal has splashed out on new players over two seasons.
He recently said: "At a smaller club like Leicester City, it is more easy to buy players.
"It is not so easy to buy players for a club like Manchester United. You have to pay much more."
What he conveniently didn't mention, however, is that clubs like the Foxes have to fight for the leftovers after the elite clubs such as United get to skim from the top first.
Van Gaal asserted, when asked about the booing by the crowd yesterday, that the United fans have themselves to blame for expecting too much, a situation which amplified their disappointment.
His mistake, he added, was to not have made clear enough to them that this is a long-term project.
He said: "They are expecting a lot.
"But I think these expectations are much too high, and we are a team in transition, and that I have said when I started here.
"Maybe I have to bring over the message much clearer than I have done."
United's sorry statistics are crystal clear, Mr van Gaal.
No team have made more passes backwards, and only two clubs have made more sideways passes than them in the Premiership this term.
For a club known for their attacking flair and commitment to entertain, statistics like these lend proof to the view that the club have lost their way, and in turn, their soul.
And if van Gaal is to be believed, United could have won the league had they had all their players fit.
He said: "I think the issue is the amount of injuries in the months of November and December, and also that it was particularly in two positions, the two fullback positions... When everybody was fit, we were first in the league, and these are the facts."
The most damning evidence of his failed regime could be seen in his starting line-up against Bournemouth yesterday morning.
In a game he knew he had to win big and stylishly to somewhow try and overturn the tide of hostility, he ended up looking woefully out of his depth despite the win.
Among the 11 who started against Bournemouth, only Daley Blind and Anthony Martial were brought in by him, with the rest either remnants from the David Moyes and Sir Alex Ferguson eras or products from the youth academy.
No doubt injuries deprived van Gaal of the services of Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Matteo Darmian yesterday.
But one would be hard pressed to find a Man United fan convinced that the five have made a telling difference to United's season.
There is a simpler explanation for United's troubles.
They failed to deliver this season not because of their lengthy injury list, fans' unrealistic expectations or unseen obstacles in the transfer market.
The root of their problems is van Gaal.
WHAT THEY SAY
Manchester United — a club that I love and have followed since I was a kid — have bored me to death this season. We are one of those clubs dragged in completely the wrong direction. All the hard work that Sir Alex put in to recover what was there from Sir Matt Busby has been undone in a very short period of time.
— Former Man United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel
Where are the club going? They’re going the wrong way, there’s no doubt about that. Manchester United have spent £300m in the last three years. They should be up there with Barcelonas, the Real Madrids and the Bayern Munichs of this world because of the resources they’ve got.
— Former United midfielder Paul Scholes
UNITED’S SORRY STATS
GOALS 46 (EPL rank: 11th)
TOTAL SHOTS 418 (EPL rank: 16th)
CHANCES CREATED 301 (EPL rank: 18th)
PASSES BACKWARDS 3,107 (EPL rank: 1st)
SIDEWAYS PASSES 9,718 (EPL rank: 3rd)
PASSES INTO FINAL THIRD 2,327 (EPL rank: 14th)
AVERAGE POSSESSION 58.23% (EPL rank: 2nd)
* Stats by Sky Sports
LVG LAMENTS HIGH EXPECTATIONS BUT EXPECTS TO STAY ON
FAREWELL? Louis van Gaal (in jacket) leading the players on a lap of honour at Old Trafford.
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has conceded his side have taken a step back this season, but remains confident of keeping his job.
United finished fifth in the Premier League after beating Bournemouth 3-1 in their rearranged final game yesterday morning (Singapore time) and they missed out on a Champions League position on goal difference.
It is the second time in three seasons that United have not claimed a place in Europe's elite competition and van Gaal concedes that, after the progress of his first season, United have gone backwards.
Asked if they had taken a step back, the 64-year-old Dutchman said in his post-match press conference: "Of course, because our aim in the first year and also the second and the third shall be Champions League.
"It is the highest level and a club like Manchester United have to play at that level.
"But there are more clubs who want to play at that level and you have seen that."
Van Gaal's position has been the subject of speculation throughout the season but, despite persistent rumours linking Jose Mourinho with his job, he expects to stay on.
"Yes," he said firmly when asked if he expected to be retained.
When asked why, he said: "Because I have signed a three-year contract."
Van Gaal claims United, who still have the FA Cup final to play on Saturday, can bounce back and win the Premier League next season.
He said: "That is always possible because Leicester City were more or less a relegation team (last year). We were fourth and fifth. Normally we are closer (than them)."
Van Gaal was booed by a number of United fans as the under-fire manager thanked them for their "unconditional support" after the Bournemouth game.
"I want to thank you for the unconditional support of you," he said. "Whenever we have played, however the things have gone on the field, you never let us down.
"Thank you for that and we want to bring the FA Cup home. You deserve it. Thank you."
Many applauded at the end of van Gaal's address, but Bournemouth fans goaded him with chants of "you're getting sacked in the morning".
Asked by Sky Sports if he understood the booing fans, van Gaal said: "Of course, but the expectation is very high. The fans expect a lot, these expectations are too high. We are a team in transition." - PA Sport.
Toothless Red Devils
Louis van Gaal has presided over Manchester United's most toothless Premier League season.
The 3-1 win over Bournemouth at Old Trafford yesterday morning (Singapore time) took United's goal tally for the campaign to just 49, nine fewer than the 58 they scored in 2004-05, when they finished third behind Chelsea and Arsenal.
In addition, their goals have come at a rate of just 1.29 a game, the lowest in the club's EPL history.
Anthony Martial is the leading scorer with 11 in the league with England skipper Wayne Rooney having managed just eight and Juan Mata two behind. - PA Sport.
- Matches: 38
- Goals: 49
- Goals per game: 1.29
BEST EPL SEASON
- Matches: 38
- Goals: 97
- Goals per game: 2.55
PREVIOUS WORST SEASON (2004-05)
- Matches: 38
- Goals: 58
- Goals per game: 1.53
WORST IN ALEX FERGUSON ERA
- Matches: 38
- Goals: 45
- Goals per game: 1.18