Why LVG deserves the sack more than Mourinho: Neil Humphreys
LVG deserves sack more than Mourinho - Chelsea destroyed their coach, but Dutchman destroying United
The big club fired the wrong man.
Jose Mourinho was handed a sack that belonged to Louis van Gaal.
Roman Abramovich's infatuation with his Chelsea chess pawns on the pitch blinded him to player power.
Over at Manchester United, their owners' adoration of the Dutch egomaniac in the dugout has allowed van Gaal to trash the camp from the inside out.
As the prima donnas proved in their easy victory against Sunderland on Saturday, the Blues dance to their own tune.
They win when they want. They hire and fire managers when they want.
Even Mourinho was no match for Chelsea's unique autocracy within the dressing room.
But there's only one authority figure at Old Trafford and he's killing the club.
Sir Alex Ferguson was no less dictatorial, but there are clear differences between the two United managers.
Ferguson always understood the basic ethos of the club, the demands of their global support base and, most critically, the evolving nature of the English Premier League.
From the winged wonders of 4-4-2 through to a 4-2-3-1 to win those final domestic trophies with a weaker, ageing squad, Ferguson evolved.
He was a Darwinist, not a Stalinist. He always adapted to his environment, rather than bent the environment to his will.
Van Gaal remains convinced he can achieve the latter. The disastrous results are proving otherwise.
Possession football is dead in the English Premier League. It's a tactical dodo, a quaint chapter in coaching textbooks.
But van Gaal's inability to acknowledge that fact effectively leaves him a dead man walking.
Defeat by Stoke or Chelsea must be the end. He should have been gently ushered towards early retirement already, but his employers' admiration runs deep.
Van Gaal is blessed - and United supporters are cursed - with American owners who remain largely clueless about the round ball game.
For all his faults, the Russian axeman of Stamford Bridge understands the sport's subtleties, but Abramovich's undoing is the close relationship with his players.
Chelsea's old guard have been regular guests on the Russian's yacht for years. Didier Drogba joined Abramovich in his executive box for the Sunderland game, acting as some sort of PR Kevlar vest for the owner.
Abramovich also gave Petr Cech permission to join Arsenal, against Mourinho's wishes, a decision that underlined the unhealthy owner-player relationship and marked the beginning of the end for the manager.
The Portuguese could not even sign his transfer targets, denying him the opportunity to expand a sparse title-winning squad.
But van Gaal was granted carte blanche. His fingerprints are all over United's squad, leaving grubby stains everywhere.
His American owners and erratic vice-chairman Ed Woodward allowed him to throw hundreds of millions of pounds at the wall in the hope that some of it stuck. None did.
Despite playing a near-best 11 at home to Norwich, United were laboured and predictable.
Van Gaal's possession-based template was once cutting edge. Now it's a redundant relic.
In stark contrast, Pep Guardiola, a candidate for the United job, moved away from a similarly controlled approach at Barcelona to incorporate a more direct formation at Bayern Munich.
Guardiola's use of Robert Lewandowski as a conventional striker has made other managers appear out of touch with their false No. 9 routine, like watching an old comedian tell the same jokes.
But van Gaal is not for turning. His unshakeable devotion to his own ego makes him unwilling to even move the deckchairs around on the Titanic.
He still believes he can power through the iceberg.
Unlike Mourinho, he was given near unlimited resources in consecutive transfer windows. Unlike Mourinho, he has the owner's ear at all times. Unlike Mourinho, he controls the squad.
Unlike Mourinho, he cannot claim to have lost the dressing room because it's unclear whether he ever had the dressing room in the first place.
Numerous reports point to senior players expressing their irritation at his dictatorial reign, his endless nitpicking, criticism and over-emphasis on stopping opponents rather than freeing United's artists.
Unlike Mourinho, van Gaal has no excuses. And he will not change.
Despite a failure to beat PSV Eindhoven, Leicester City, West Ham, Wolfsburg, Bournemouth and now Norwich, van Gaal's stubbornness prevailed. Still convinced that his signings, his selections and his antiquated possession game would prevail in the end.
They didn't. They couldn't.
As the Canaries realised, the longer United persevere with such a simplistic philosophy, the easier they are to defeat on the counter-attack. It's obvious to all except the only men who matter.
Van Gaal will never remove his blinkers, leaving United's hierarchy with no choice but to remove theirs.
“To show your professional attitude — that is the only way you can get that back. We have to show our professional attitude to improve and to come back into our confidence zone.”
- Louis van Gaal on how to restore the players’ draining confidence
“I wouldn’t say it’s the lowest moment. I think it became pretty glum, if you like, under David Moyes and it was unfortunate. We weren’t playing well at the time. There’s no point saying we’ve played some good football this season because ultimately we’ve lost three games in a row. We need to stick together, there’s nothing else you can do.”
- Defender Phil Jones claims the mood at United is not as bad as it was at the lowest point of David Moyes’ short reign as manager