Spurs' hopes alive but van Gaal's United future looks dead, says Neil Humphreys
But van Gaal is surely on the way out after awful decisions put dent in top-four hopes
(Dele Alli 70, Toby Alderweireld 74, Erik Lamela 76)
MAN UNITED 0
Louis van Gaal signed his own exit visa this morning (Singapore time).
The Manchester United manager might as well gather his belongings, get his coat and start preparing his farewell speech.
If a traffic jam left the Red Devils late for the match, then van Gaal's confusing selections and substitutions left them late for the English Premier League party.
Tottenham's 3-0 victory keeps their flickering title hopes alive, but United's top-four aspirations went AWOL at White Hart Lane, along with any faint ambitions of van Gaal keeping his job next season.
United's fans, not to mention the boardroom, cannot take much more of his muddled thinking and illogical tinkering any longer.
With the game evenly poised, he swopped a rising striker in Marcus Rashford for rusty winger Ashley Young. Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and even Daley Blind were all deployed in the wrong positions.
The line-up, the formation, the substitutions; nothing worked for United. Van Gaal created a confused, disoriented side and left them to drown in their own uncertainty.
United, according to their frustrated manager, had spent almost two hours going round in circles.
But they've spent large parts of the season going round in circles, so the familiar confusion almost seemed strangely comforting.
It certainly seemed that way.
Despite spending two hours stuck on a London coach, the visitors flourished from a delayed kick-off.
United displayed the initial urgency, with the latest newcomer, 18-year-old Dutchman Timothy Fosu-Mensah, linking well with Juan Mata as the Red Devils sought to keep their top-four hopes alive.
The image of the lively teenager later going off injured was a sad one.
But van Gaal's season-long Achilles' heel still hobbles his wobbling forward line.
They do not create enough chances, much less score enough goals.
The best chance of the opening half fell to Tottenham.
In the 38th minute, Christian Eriksen floated a deep cross from the right towards Erik Lamela. From six metres out, the ball slid off his gelled Mohawk like Bambi on ice.
The game tilted like an upturned pinball machine, with Danny Rose dragging Mata back to tag-team with Fosu-Mensah at right back.
Mata isn't a winger - or even a wingback - any more than Lingard is a natural No. 10 but van Gaal's selections continue to perplex rather than impress.
Lingard was little more than a bystander. Rashford was bypassed altogether, with neither side able to conjure a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.
In many respects, the frantic, but flawed opening exchanges summarised this strange English Premier League campaign.
It was high in intensity, that eternally popular EPL cliche, but low on technical excellence.
Van Gaal obviously agreed and opted for one of those baffling substitutions that seem almost belligerent in their desire to antagonise supporters.
Rashford was swopped for the 30-year-old, barely used, winger Young, who was sent up front, a position he has rarely held in a United jersey.
The radical move had the desired effect - on Tottenham.
Eric Dier, Eriksen and Harry Kane all stung David de Gea's palms as Spurs started to assert their authority.
Inevitably, Tottenham broke the deadlock.
Finding space on the left in the 70th minute, Eriksen curled an inviting cross towards the six-yard line for Dele Alli to sidefoot home.
Alli had offered little until that moment, but Blind offered even less for the goal.
The occasional centre back had played a dangerously high line all game, calling for offsides at every opportunity.
Finally, he came unstuck, losing Alli in the box and handing the Englishman a gift-wrapped goal.
When Toby Alderweireld headed in Lamela's free-kick and Lamela rounded off a fine team move, giving Tottenham three goals in five-and-a-half minutes, the contest was dead.
Spurs' title bid just about lives on.
But van Gaal's United dream is over. The end is nigh.
For the disillusioned faithful, the Dutchman's departure cannot come soon enough.
- TOTTENHAM: Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Moussa Dembele, Erik Lamela (Nacer Chadli 87), Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane (Son Heung Min 89)
- MAN UNITED: David de Gea, Timothy Fosu-Mensah (Matteo Darmian 68), Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin, Juan Mata (Memphis Depay 76), Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford (Ashley Young 46)
YESTERDAY’S OTHER GAMES
- Man City 2 West Brom 1
- Sunderland 0 Leicester 2
- Liverpool 4 Stoke 1