Friday 28 October 2016

Louis plays a straight hand but time is up

United boss Louis van Gaal sits in the technical area during last night’s match
United boss Louis van Gaal sits in the technical area during last night’s match

If there is a choreography at work and at some point in the very near future Louis van Gaal is shepherded towards the door, he played it straight at Old Trafford and delivered his lines with some panache.

His assertion that resignation is not on his mind carried the ring of truth and handed the stage to Ed Woodward, the man who has overseen the transition from an Alex Ferguson wonderland to unthinkable austerity without any hint that he knows what he's doing.

A glance at van Gaal's bench told its own story. Glazed would be a kind description but that was in keeping with the football on offer.

It says something that a Premier League holiday fixture between Manchester United and Chelsea which up to last season carried the weight of significance attached to potentially title deciding encounters, was about survival.


On the one side a Dutchman with time running out and on the other, Guus Hiddink, threading water while he finds out why José Mourinho lost his team and how to make them play again.

Mourinho would have appreciated Hiddink's approach to the game. He wedged Willian and John Obi Mikel between his back four and anything Manchester United had to offer and it was just about enough.

Rooney was hailed by the pundits and given the man-of-the-match award but it was hard to see why. He missed an absolute sitter near the end of the game which he would have stroked to the back of the net in his prime - whenever that was.

Van Gaal spoke about "forcing luck" and not getting any but his luck comes in the formidable form of David de Gea.

He gave another goalkeeping masterclass and Hiddink could easily have taken the bus home with three points on board but for his brilliance.

De Gea is the only evidence remaining of a Ferguson legacy and he's only there because of a chaotic transfer saga. He was the only real class on show from two teams low on confidence and waiting for someone to take control.

Van Gaal claimed he still had the crowd, the players and the Board onside after the game but that hardly matters any more.

There was a faint murmur of discontent and it was shared by the small group of Chelsea fans in enemy territory who chanted "attack, attack, attack".

How low these two clubs have dipped. Roy Keane's nightmare scenario for a rudderless Manchester United squad populated by bling-centric and complacent youth which he annunciated in the infamous MUTV video was made real with the shot of Memphis Depay, who has done nothing in football, riding up to training in a Rolls Royce convertible.

It was his version of defiance and how sad is that?

You have to wonder what Mourinho makes of it all or Pep Guardiola, the man they all want.

Both of these clubs are in crisis and no easy route to salvation in sight.

Chelsea will do well to make it into the shake-up for the Europa League and Manchester United are drifting further and further back from the business end of the Premier League.

Neither job is one for the faint-hearted.

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