Van Gaal has to change his boring 'philosophy' or go, says Neil Humphreys
Dutchman's 'philosophy' won't win United the title and it's dire to watch
Just when the woeful Red Devils thought they'd soaked up every available insult, they were called a bunch of cake bakers.
Those were the harsh words of Dutch legend Willem van Hanegem yesterday. A titan of Holland's total football said his countryman, Louis van Gaal, had put together a ramshackle outfit of powder-puff plodders.
And he's right.
Van Gaal inherited a tentative team from David Moyes and made them tedious. Any inspiration has left the building.
If recent performances against Leicester City and PSV Eindhoven are the template for van Gaal's farcical "philosophy", then United's season is already over. The Theatre of Dreams is no more. The name falls foul of the trades descriptions act.
United cannot win the league with such turgid fare masquerading as entertainment. And they cannot win over disillusioned supporters struggling to recognise their red-drenched zombies.
Propping up the façade serves little purpose. If van Gaal doesn't adapt his sterile, possession-based approach, he might as well walk.
His stubborn insistence on static, safety-first football is an untenable position.
After the Leicester game, the manager's deluded analysis that United were "a good team that's difficult to beat" revealed how far removed he is from the club's psyche. His philosophy goes against the grain, leaving almost every performance scratchy and uneven.
And it's not even working. United aren't winning. The draw against Leicester reinforced the assumption that van Gaal is not a man for turning.
Critics have been forming a disorderly queue all season long to berate the negativity, but van Hanegem's descriptive language was the pick of the bunch. Referring to the Leicester game, the 1974 World Cup finalist said: "I see that team play and (they make) tears shoot from my eyes.
"If you can spend £300 million, then you do not buy such a bunch of cake bakers."
Even cake bakers get the job done. United enjoyed 70 per cent possession in the second half at Leicester, but failed to muster a single shot on target.
Of course, the eternal, infernal Wayne Rooney soap opera rumbles on with its customary dullness. Drop him. Pick him. Drop him. Pick him. It's the usual Punch and Judy sideshow to draw attention from the one-trick puppeteer struggling to make use of his characters properly.
Rooney is a yard too slow to slip through central defenders and a pass too short to be a natural No. 10, but he can do nothing without the ball.
Michael Carrick, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juan Mata are instructed to play carousel football, going round in circles; an easy, gentle ride on an endless rotation.
It's creativity for Crustaceans, with Carrick and Schweinsteiger jostling from side to side like bickering crabs.
Van Gaal's philosophy has certainly fixed the defence, with the fewest goals conceded in the Premier League, and Chris Smalling is quietly morphing from a weak link to a revelation.
Pulling up the drawbridge isn't a problem. Unleashing the troops to wreak havoc is the inescapable flaw in the Dutchman's dastardly plan.
United have scored the fewest goals in the top five, just 20 from 14 games. Everton, in ninth place, have already knocked in 27.
Van Gaal conceded that a lack of width, speed and creativity was hindering United's progress and he was in the market for all three.
Interestingly, a scampering sorcerer ticked every box last week in the Champions League, knocking in two goals and terrorising Malmo's defence.
But Angel di Maria was deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford.
Van Gaal's contradictory comments, claiming he needs precisely the kind of player he recently sold at a discount, underline the nagging suspicion that he's just pandering to the fan base.
He's telling the wide-eyed idealists what they want to hear.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and van Gaal enjoys building regimented sides programmed to triumph rather than titillate the masses.
Aside from better finishing from a more prolific striker, this is about as good as it gets under van Gaal.
As Rio Ferdinand has already pointed out, there's nothing to be gained from feigning surprise now. United knew what they were getting. Van Gaal assembles methodical sides that retain possession and patiently wait for an opportunity to present itself.
Old Trafford's explosive counter-attacking is the stuff of yesterday's dreams. The football theatre puts on a more formulaic show now. It's ponderous, predictable, painful on the eye and hard to stomach.
But the philosophy won't be compromised. Nor will it win the title.
If United fancy a change of scenery, then they'll have to change the manager.