Monday 28 December 2015

A turning point... or a sign of how bad things have become.

It was another 0-0 at Old Trafford but it might have bought under-fire Dutchman Louis van Gaal some breathing space after four straight defeats.

No-score OT stalemates have sent LVG's stock plummeting this season but this was one that may just have salvaged his job for a shade longer.

Hard to imagine you'd be trumpeting a 0-0 scoreline that stretched a winless run to eight games but beggars can't be choosers in bleak times like these at United.

It may not have brought to a halt to that damaging eight match stat but this display did at least arrest a performance graph that was plunging off the plus scale.

It's just 34 days since United were on the brink of rubber-stamping their place in the Champions League last 16 knockout phase.
All that was needed was a goal against PSV Eindhoven at Old Trafford and the grim landscape at United just over a month on wouldn't have been so bleak.

But once the Reds failed to book their Euro ticket early the whole campaign disintegrated.

From that 0-0 failure the problems have grown out of proportion.

Confidence and belief have eroded virtually overnight and the slide since has been alarming.
A Champions League KO, dropping out of the top four and a manager under siege and a club in serious crisis.

Just 24  hours before United's killer draw against PSV, Chelsea had won 4-0 in Israel to give Jose Mourinho hope he could turn things around at the Bridge.

The 2015 title winner lasted only another 24 days in office before getting the bullet.

Here we were with LVG hanging on courtesy, it seems, because of the benevolence of the Reds hierarchy.
We had the two sides who have shared nine Premier League crowns out of the last 11 slugging it out attempting to rediscover former glories with both reputations in tatters.

During United's horror five weeks they slumped to a point where, after LVG set the three-match winning revival plan in the minutes after the embarrasing and shocking surrender at Bournemouth, you felt that this was a squad who were not capable of grasping that lifeline.

Van Gaal had put the noose around his own neck and slowly his dreadfully performing choices have tightened it.

This may not have been a top of the table clash but it was watchable and from a United perspective far more positive and uplifting than anything seen in a long time.
Anyone wondering whether LVG still had the backing of his dressing room had their answer in a front foot first half.
But when you are hanging on for dear life, then Juan Mata and Anthony Martial's early efforts ripple the net instead of shaking the woodwork.

United are still such a fragile side that unlucky moments like that are not shrugged easily and we then had to suffer nervy moments of our own.

Superb David de Gea saves from Terry, Pedro and Azpilicueta may keep the Dutchman in employment a little longer than expected.
If you could overlook some rough edges and fragility this could almost have been a clash from yesteryear. 

Whether it will be revived as one in the near future is-  much like LVG's future -
still in the melting pot

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