Stoke City 2-0 Manchester United: Is this the end for Louis van Gaal?

first_img1 Louis van Gaal can’t bear to watch as Manchester United lose at Stoke With Jose Mourinho lurking in the shadows like the ghost of Christmas future, Louis van Gaal suffered the sort of nightmare afternoon that would give anyone sleepless nights.Since Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea earlier this month, rumours have been rife he will be offered the chance to take charge at Old Trafford, and this latest loss will surely signal the end of Van Gaal’s reign.The Dutchman was under growing pressure going into this early Boxing Day fixture following a run of six games without a win, and he could only watch on in horror from the dugout as his side capitulated in the first half at the Britannia Stadium.Captain Wayne Rooney insisted earlier this week he and his team-mates were ready to fight to save their manager’s job, but his reward for his rallying cry was to be dropped to the bench.And it also appeared his words had a distinctly hollow ring to them because, in the opening 45 minutes at least, Manchester United turned in a performance so lacking in festive spirit Ebenezer Scrooge himself would have been proud of it.They were 2-0 down within 25 minutes, with the opening goal in the ninth minute summing up the shocking lack of confidence running through the squad.Memphis Depay made a dreadful error in trying to head the ball back to David de Gea, failing to take into account the windy conditions at Stoke, and his attempt fell woefully short.Full-back Glen Johnson pounced immediately on the mistake to square for Bojan Krkic and, with De Gea hopelessly stranded, the Spaniard kept his composure to pass the ball into the net despite the close attention of two United defenders.That was the worst possible start for Van Gaal and, before the game was a third old, it had turned even bleaker.This time there could be no blame attached to De Gea or his defenders as Marko Arnautovic smashed an unstoppable 25-yard shot into the net, but the needless handball by Ashley Young that led to the free-kick which saw the ball rebound into Arnautovic’s path could certainly have been avoided.Arnautovic could then have added a third which really would have killed the game off as a contest before the interval, but he fired wide from a good position, but the gaps in the United rearguard were alarming.Van Gaal responded at the break by replacing Depay with Rooney, and it was the England skipper who created the 62nd minute opportunity that would have got United back into the game.He took a ball from Ander Herrera and wriggled to the byline before pulling the ball back for Marouane Fellaini, but the Belgian’s weak finish from eight yards out was brilliantly saved by Jack Butland.Stoke seemed happy to settle for a ‘we hold what we have’ approach in the second half, switching to a more defensive formation but, that Fellaini chance apart, Butland was called into action on only two more occasions to deny Anthony Martial and Juan Mata as a toothless United huffed and puffed.So there was to be no Christmas miracle for Van Gaal, and his critics will be sharpening their pencils as they prepare to write his Old Trafford obituary.Remember, the last time he faced the press he demanded an apology from them before walking out of the media briefing and, although it may have been in the (very recent) past, it’s likely that outburst will come back to haunt him in the present during the post-match inquest into this defeat.As for the future? Well, we’re not expecting a Dickens-style happy ending…last_img