In Depth

Man Utd revolt over Louis van Gaal's tactics

Criticism grows after manager's placing of players results in defeat to Tottenham Hotspur

Louis van Gaal's tactical changes during Manchester United's defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday have prompted a dressing room mutiny at Old Trafford that could lead to the end of his reign.

Things came to a head after the game at White Hart Lane, in which winger Ashley Young was deployed as a striker, winger and even auxiliary full-back.

Van Gaal blamed "miscommunication" among defenders for Spurs's three goals, but his public explanations focusing on errors have not gone down well.

"A number of Manchester United's senior players are growing increasingly frustrated with Louis van Gaal's tendency to blame them for the club's poor results and performances, rather than acknowledging any shortcomings in his tactics or style of play," reports The Times.

"Van Gaal's analysis of matches focuses on their failure to implement his tactical plans, rather than acknowledging any failure of the plan itself, both in public and in private."

As a result, relations with players are "strained", adds the paper. 

While The Times claims there is no "no widespread sense of mutiny", The Sun paints a rather more dramatic picture. "Respect for Van Gaal, supposedly one of the great managerial minds, has gone," it claims.

After the latest embarrassment, there was "open dressing room dissent" and senior players are now "wondering out loud how the club can seriously keep [Van Gaal] beyond the end of the season".

The catalyst for the revolt was the manager's half-time tactical changes against Spurs. Van Gaal rounded on young striker Marcus Rashford for failing to make the right runs in the first half, reports The Sun, but instead of giving him the chance to make amends, he hauled him off and put Young up front.

"Over the next 45 minutes, LVG bamboozled Young - making his first appearance since victory at Liverpool on January 17 - by playing him in three different positions," adds the paper.

That is a point on which The Times concurs, saying players are "increasingly baffled by [Van Gaal's] determination to play players out of position", while the Daily Mail says his decision to play Young up front was just "another moment of madness".

The paper adds: "The Dutchman has started players out of position on 38 separate occasions throughout the season, with Marouane Fellaini leading the line and Michael Carrick playing as an emergency centre back among the examples of when he has used international stars the wrong way."

Many of the squad have led a "peripatetic existence" under Van Gaal, regularly shifting position, says The Guardian.

"Counterintuitive ploys show imagination and an ability to think laterally but they have to work," it adds. "Otherwise it is egg-on-face time and Van Gaal could make several omelettes."

Louis van Gaal on thin ice as Man Utd play like 'dying flies'

11 April

Louis van Gaal's hopes of remaining manager of Manchester United next season may have been dealt a fatal blow on Sunday, as his side were blown away by a seven-minute second-half blitz from Tottenham Hotspur.

It was another bad day for the Red Devils, who arrived late in London after getting caught in traffic. They failed to muster a shot on target in the first half and the manager was ridiculed for playing substitute Ashley Young as a centre-forward in the second while Anthony Martial, a natural in that position, remained on the wing.

Young was eventually switched out wide and even deputised at right-back, but by the end, Spurs had a 3-0 lead, thanks to three goals in quick succession from Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela.

The result leaves United four points behind fourth-place local rivals Manchester City and only one ahead of West Ham in sixth place. Their chances of qualifying for the Champions League now look slim at best.

United played like "a collection of dying flies trying to batter their way out of a fluorescent tube", says Barney Ronay in The Guardian. "Even for a Van Gaal sympathiser it is almost impossible to make a case for keeping him in place for the final year of his contract." 

The positives of the Van Gaal era were on display, as Manchester fielded a team containing three players aged 20 or younger. But there is a very big problem: "It is simply that United continue to play with so little verve and joy. There is no sense here of a team emerging, of a shape and a purpose being found, simply of a collection of parts poking out in various places, occasionally offering the odd misleading sparkle of hope, before collapsing back into a froth of confusion."

Van Gaal's side is "a flimsy imitation of what United used to be, a cardboard cut-out easily blown in the wind," says Laurie Whitwell at MailOnline.

"Clearly Ed Woodward, United's chief executive, is loath to sack Van Gaal. Out of loyalty but also reluctance to concede his choice to hire the Dutchman has not worked. But this comprehensive reverse in north London – a second in the campaign after embarrassment at Arsenal – may prove a tipping point," he adds.

Van Gaal was courted by Spurs in 2014, but chose Manchester United instead. The London team then hired Mauricio Pochettino, a choice which now looks inspired.

Asked this weekend about his decision, Van Gaal said: "The challenge was bigger for me at Manchester United and shall always be bigger... I'm sorry for Tottenham but Manchester United is a bigger club."

However, his United side now "appear light years behind the often brilliant, dynamic and youthful Tottenham", says James Masters in The Times.

Louis van Gaal 'airbrushed' from Man United tour video

24 March

The chances of Louis van Gaal remaining manager of Manchester United beyond the end of the current campaign look remoter than ever after the club released a promotional video for their pre-season tour of China in which the Dutchman was notable by his absence.

The 50-second clip, which appeared on United's official website this week, features former players including George Best, Eric Cantona and Van Gaal's assistant, Ryan Giggs, but not the current manager, even though he has "featured heavily" in promotional material for the past two summers, notes The Times.

No fewer than 14 members of the current squad, including breakout star Marcus Rashford, appear in the video.

The manager's vanishing act is regarded as significant by most observers. "While inconclusive, the fact Van Gaal has been airbrushed from the current marketing campaign will simply fuel speculation that he will be leaving the club this summer," says the Daily Telegraph.

United travel to China in July as part of the International Champions Cup tournament and take on local rivals Manchester City at the Bird's Nest Olympic stadium in Beijing on 25 July.

It has been widely reported that former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho will take over at United this summer and although Old Trafford have "steadfastly refused to respond" to the rumours, "the prospect of City and United both unveiling new managers in a glamour friendly in the Far East is moving ever closer", adds the paper.

City have already announced that Pep Guardiola will be taking over from Manuel Pellegrini at the end of this season and although United could still go on to win the FA Cup and qualify for the Champions League "it remains to be seen if Van Gaal is given the chance to see out the third year of his contract", says the Daily Mail.

Van Gaal must go – reaction to Manchester United's humiliation

19 March

Perhaps it is fitting that Louis van Gaal's latest humiliation occurred in Denmark, for his reign at Manchester United is fast becoming a tragedy to rival Hamlet.

United were appalling against the minnows of Midtjylland and now the knives are well and truly out for the Dutch manager. Old Trafford could become his Elsinore next week.

"It was an abomination," says James Ducker of United's performance in The Times. "No fight, no hunger, no poise or control; just panicked, dim-witted defending and a catalogue of brainless errors."

It was as if the team was willing the club to sack Van Gaal, he writes. Were it not for Sergio Romero in goal, United would not just have lost - they would have been humiliated.

The performance was "an affront" and "a betrayal" of United's traditions, adds Henry Winter, also in the Times.

"This is United, an English institution, the club of Giggs and Charlton, three times winners of the European Cup and here they are succumbing meekly in the Europa League to a small but proud team from Jutland. On this sorry evidence, United would struggle to live with a side from Rutland."

The criticism is rather more measured in the Daily Telegraph, although Luke Edwards says the result is "undoubtedly another huge setback and further erodes whatever faith remains in the team's manager".

Van Gaal is now odds on to go before the end of the season, he adds.

And go he must, says the Manchester Evening News. The club "cannot let this slow lingering death drag on any longer", writes Stuart Mathieson. Van Gaal's CV "is in ruins and United's own reputation is crumbling frighteningly before the Old Trafford hierarchy's eyes".

Defeat to Midtjylland is far more damaging than the 2-0 Champions League setback against Olympiakos that did for David Moyes in 2014, he argues. "A club who used to beat Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Juventus in the Champions League totally humiliated by Midtjylland in the Europa League is completely unacceptable."

The United fans, who had paid £71 a ticket, made their views known on the team's performance at the final whistle. "We're f****** s***," they sang. And Van Gaal was forced to admit they had a point.

"The fans are increasingly sure something has to give — and it’s the manager," says The Sun. "The onus is on Ed Woodward to make the big call or publicly say he won't."

Man Utd sell T-shirts 'mocking Louis van Gaal'

18 February

If Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal didn't already consider himself a dead man walking, he might do now. T-shirts apparently mocking his style of play have been discovered on sale at the Old Trafford club shop.

The tops, made by United's kit manufacturer and sponsor, Adidas, carry the slogan: "Red Devils: Duty to Entertain" - an apparent comment on Van Gaal's defensive approach that has alienated fans this season.

The Sun claims the "new" shirts went on sale recently, priced £17 at the club's online store. Staff at the club shop are "embarrassed to be selling the top on the back of the tepid football currently being played by Van Gaal's men", it adds.

One shop worker told the paper: "I can't believe we are stocking it. It surely is something which should have come out at the start of the season, rather than after such bad results."

Adidas, who signed a £750m kit deal with United last year, are producing the T-shirts and £45 hoodies weeks after company chief executive Herbert Hainer made it clear he was unimpressed with Van Gaal and said "the current playing style is not exactly what we want to see".

The shirts are just the latest blow to the manager (pictured above), who is widely expected to lose his job in the summer. But there are calls for him to be sacked now, with United in fifth place in the table, six points off a top-four finish and in danger of being overhauled by arch-rivals Liverpool, who are now only three points behind.

Firing Van Gaal would allow United to appoint a replacement before the end of the season and begin the rebuilding process, argues Charlie Eccleshare of the Daily Telegraph, who describes the Dutch manager as a "lame duck".

"By waiting until the summer, United risk having yet another 'transitional' year with a manager inevitably spending his first season getting to know the team and vice versa.

"The most compelling reason to get rid of Van Gaal is that the team are playing awfully and the results have been terrible. United have fewer points at this stage of the season than they did under David Moyes, and are six points off the top four."

Man United would tell me about Mourinho, says Van Gaal

12 February

Louis van Gaal has dismissed claims Manchester United have held talks about replacing him with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho because, he says, he would have been told about them.

After a string of bad performances from the team, Manchester's under-pressure manager (pictured above) is clinging onto his job and is expected to be dismissed this summer, although he still has a year on his contract.

It has been widely reported this week that one-time Real Madrid coach Mourinho has been lined up to replace him, with the media salivating over the prospect of a renewal of the Special One's feud with former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, who takes over at Manchester City in the summer.

But Van Gaal considers Mourinho a friend since their time working together at Barcelona a decade ago and also has faith in the Old Trafford hierarchy.

"I have spoken with [executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward and I cannot imagine that they have spoken with each other," he told The Independent. "I think that if they speak with another manager, they would tell me, because our relationship is like that."

But he added: "If they want to change, they have to prepare themselves. That is also a professional attitude."

After 20 years of top-level coaching, Van Gaal "understands the precariousness of his position", says The Times. "United's performances and results this season have not been up to the standard expected of the club as they try to maintain a challenge for a Champions League place."

Van Gaal's fate is thought to rest in the hands of Woodward. But the businessman made no reference to the Dutch manager as he unveiled healthy financial results to investors yesterday.

That could be significant, says the Manchester Evening News, which appears convinced Mourinho is waiting in the wings.

"Perhaps an omerta was agreed among those on the call to eschew the Van Gaal topic in advance, but as United continue to talk with Jose Mourinho's representatives, it was striking that employee benefit expenses were raised ahead of the manager's role," says the paper.

Giggs could quit Man Utd if Van Gaal goes, but does it matter?

27 January

Manchester United face a major dilemma over manager Louis van Gaal after it was claimed that his fate could be entwined with that of long-term managerial prospect Ryan Giggs.

Van Gaal is believed to be on the verge of losing his job at Old Trafford, with big names including Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in the frame to take over.

However, replacing the Dutchman with another A-list manager this season or in the summer would leave Giggs in limbo and scupper United's long-term plans for the club, reports the Daily Mirror.

"Old Trafford top brass are worried Giggs could end his 28-year association with the club and walk away if he is overlooked in the event of Van Gaal quitting," it says.

United legend Giggs was installed as caretaker manager after David Moyes was fired in 2014 and has Van Gaal's assistant since he arrived at the club, with the obvious implication that he is being groomed for the top job.

That succession plan would be compromised by the arrival of another manager, says the newspaper, "and if they do end up going for Mourinho, that would raise serious questions about whether Giggs has a future at Old Trafford".

It could be Van Gaal who brings the issue to a head. Although United have strenuously denied he offered to step down after defeat to Southampton last weekend, the Mirror notes the Dutchman has resigned six times during his eight-job managerial career.

Muddying the waters more are calls for United's Under-21 coach Warren Joyce to be considered for the top job if Van Gaal does walk away.

"If and when Van Gaal departs and United plump for an interim appointment, Joyce would arguably be a more creditable candidate than Ryan Giggs," says Samuel Luckhurst, of the Manchester Evening News.

Joyce is a coach who stays true to the United ethos, adds the newspaper. "Joyce encourages his players to not just win, but entertain," writes Luckhurst, who claims United stars enjoy dropping down to play in his team rather than endure "joyless outings" under Van Gaal.

Man Utd: Giggs and Mourinho on alert to replace Van Gaal

26 January

Manchester United have denied reports that manager Louis van Gaal offered to resign in the wake of their dismal defeat to Southampton on Saturday and had to be persuaded not to walk out by chief executive Ed Woodward.

There was widespread jeering at Old Trafford when the final whistle blew on Saturday and the hostility shown by fans was worse than anything experienced by David Moyes during his ill-fated spell at the club.

It did not go unnoticed by United's current boss, who has watched his expensively assembled side limp through the season, and he appeared to offer an apology after the 1-0 setback when he admitted he had been unable to fulfil fans' expectations this season.

"It was the first open revolt against him from inside Old Trafford and, because Van Gaal has often cited fans' backing as a prime factor in his hunger for the job, it moved him to make the offer to resign to Woodward," claims The Guardian.

"The 64-year-old did so in calm fashion and it is a measure of Van Gaal's loyalty to Woodward that he agreed to think again. He then returned to the Netherlands for his daughter's birthday," adds the newspaper.

However, the club insist Van Gaal did not have to be talked out of leaving and returned to Manchester on Tuesday to oversee training as planned.

Yet the Dutch manager does appear to have "doubts about his ability to take the club forward", says The Times. "Van Gaal is understood to have been talked out of walking away twice over the Christmas period and spoke publicly last month about the prospect of resigning if he felt that he had lost the dressing room."

That may not have happened, but many fans are losing faith and believe "the time has come for the club to make a change", it says.

"Talks have been held with Jose Mourinho's representatives about the prospect of the former Chelsea manager taking over in the summer... and he is thought to crave the chance to take charge at Old Trafford," adds the paper.

Former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola is also in the frame and Van Gaal's assistant Ryan Giggs is said to be keen on the job.

But the former United player may not yet have the trust of the top brass, suggests the Daily Telegraph. "The more likely scenario for United should Van Gaal leave is that assistant Ryan Giggs will be put in charge until the end of the season, although it is understood that if the former player takes over... he would prefer it to be on a permanent basis."


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