Tuesday 23 February 2016

Van Gaal survives again but pressure remains on the manager

United's win at Liverpool on 17th January appeared to release the pressure valve on the 64-year-old Dutchman only for it to be turned up several notches after the home defeat to Southampton the following week.

Since then there has a continual rising tide of speculation- none of it refuted by the club- about Van Gaal's position as manager- particularly concerning former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.

Now a even a United win is not regarded as such, merely a temporary stay of execution, a delay of the inevitable, a small act of crisis aversion.

The 3-0 win at Shrewsbury was a welcome one for Van Gaal but the respite is only temporary as the scenery shifts to Old Trafford and Thursday's must win Europa League, second leg tie at home to Midtjylland.

The Dutchman insisted the team have a good chance of beating the Danes to progress in the Europa League and, despite all the trauma, a home FA Cup quarter-final against West Ham represents a good chance of progression to a Wembley date in the last four.

Should United not overcome the Danes, it will be crisis time again ahead of a crucial Premier League meeting with Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Defeat there- should that come off the back of a Europa League exit- might make the pressure unbearable and force a reluctant hierarchy, or more specifically Ed Woodward, to act.

Barring something remarkable, it seems almost certain that Van Gaal will be gone at the end of the season- if not before and he is now almost reduced to managing the team on a match-by-match basis.

A win may keep the wolves from the door but a loss could unleash the whole pack- an unhealthy life of managerial uncertainty.

It is clear the preferred option of Woodward is that Van Gaal can muddle through until the end of the season when a more calculated decision can be made.

It seems United will only look in two directions: Ryan Giggs or Mourinho.

Some reports suggest the traditionalists inside the club- including SAF and Sir Bobby Charlton- are supporters of the continuity candidate of Giggs, who has always been seen as a future United manager.

In the opposite corner- championed by Woodward and the majority of United fans- is the proven winner Mourinho, the Portuguese's camp already sounded out by the Reds- but with no promise of future employment.

As the man who has sat silently throughout the failed misery of the Moyes and Van Gaal eras- could Giggs seriously expect to do the same again under Mourinho who prefers to bring his own entourage with him. 

At least the win over Shrewsbury buys Woodward time to deliberate further on the questions that will shape United's future- even if only for a few days. 

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