Louis van Gaal is failing at Old Trafford
SWANSEA v MAN UNITED
(Tonight, 10.55pm, Singtel TV Ch 104 (mio Stadium 104 HD) & StarHub TV Ch 229)
David Moyes suddenly seems to be everywhere. His beaming grin dazzles in magazine articles and profile features.
He's on a salvage operation at Real Socieded. He's resurrecting his reputation. And it's a real pain for Louis van Gaal.
When Real Socieded defeated Barcelona a few weeks ago, Moyes insisted he had sent a reminder of his dogged abilities in a dugout. But he sent another, sneakier message to Manchester United and he knew it.
With every smiley, jokey, self-satisfied interview that he gives from his plush Mediterranean home, he reminds everyone associated with Old Trafford of what they are missing.
And the truth is, it's not a lot.
The only real differences between Moyes and van Gaal are pay grade, pedigree and panache. The Scotsman had less of the first two, but his United sides had more of the latter.
Against all odds, van Gaal has made Moyes a better man.
Had Moyes escaped last season's guillotine, a victory would surely be demanded at Swansea tonight. Under van Gaal, disgruntled United followers might begrudgingly accept a draw.
Through his erratic decision-making and buffoonish press conferences, van Gaal has pulled the goalposts closer. He has lowered expectations and hoodwinked his own paying customers.
He pleads poverty one minute and castigates the stupidity of British footballers the next.
English Premier League players are either too dim-witted to grasp his instructions or the squad he inherited from Moyes were too antiquated for his revolutionary ideas.
But the laboured victory against Preston in the FA Cup once again underscored the belief that it's not so much the tools as it is the eccentric craftsman.
The ongoing muddle is mostly of van Gaal's making.
His justification for pulling Wayne Rooney into midfield has been exposed for the hogwash it always was. The Telegraph in the UK is the latest publication to make a mockery of the Dutchman's ineffective tinkering.
As he showed with the disastrous long-ball dossier, van Gaal cherry picks his statistics. He doesn't let facts get in the way of one of his stories. But Rooney's numbers just don't add up.
According to Opta stats presented in the Telegraph, most of Rooney's goals and assists came from him playing in the final third, which stands to reason.
In Premier League matches, he now averages less than a shot per match and a shot on target once every 180 minutes from midfield.
But the most damning figures concern his new role.
Compared to Michael Carrick, Daley Blind and Ander Herrera, he makes fewer passes, his pass completion rate is lower and he doesn't make as many tackles and interceptions.
Herrera, who was the brightest spark among dim bulbs against Preston, also creates more chances than the United skipper.
Whether Rooney feels comfortable in the withdrawn role is neither here nor there. The natural forward is simply not an improvement on existing personnel.
His less impactful position seems all the more exasperating with Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie displaying the pace and movement of a couple of uncles trying to push a stalled car.
With each abject showing, Falcao's lack of fitness edges towards farce.
The Colombian rushed his return from a cruciate-ligament injury, presumably to secure his pension at Old Trafford and United have paid the price ever since.
His four goals in 19 appearances were fractionally more impressive than his inability to muster a single shot on target against League One's Preston.
United improved only when Falcao trudged off, overweight and out of touch. But van Gaal sticks with a guy who can no longer twist.
James Wilson has speed and youth on his side. Rooney remains a battering ram. But their manager is not for turning.
Instead, he picks an unfit six-yard box predator whose career has thrived on crosses - the source of three of Falcao's four United goals - and then decides wingers are passe.
Diamonds are forever.
But United's diamond requires speed to sparkle at a time when the Red Devils are painfully slow in possession.
After seven months, van Gaal continues to stuff round pegs into square holes and hope his tactical insight will plug any remaining gaps.
He got away with it against Preston. He's been getting away with it all season. He could yet have the last laugh.
But right now, Moyes is the only man smiling.