Louis van Gaal and Arsene Wenger pit their wits against each other once more on Monday night in the quarter-final of the FA Cup, the competition the latter will be desperate to defend following last season’s success.
Manchester United play host to Arsenal in the tie of the round with a place at Wembley up for grabs, and Paul Merson claims the manager to end up on the losing side will come under extreme pressure.
Van Gaal and Wenger are also bidding to lead they respective sides into the Champions League next season, and this is something more coveted than domestic glory in the oldest competition of all.
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Merson, the former Arsenal attacker, believes the sack could be the outcome for whoever misses out in pursuit of these dual goals, and the next fews days could be pivotal in the respective futures of these two experienced managers.
“Whoever goes out of the cup will just be playing for the top four – and neither team is guaranteed to finish in there this season,” Merson told the Daily Star.
“You can’t tell me that either of those managers will still be in a job next season if they go out of the cup and don’t finish in the top four.
“Van Gaal has spent a fortune and has to qualify for the Champions League. Winning the FA Cup might save him. Not doing either? It’s goodbye.
“But I don’t think winning the FA Cup would be enough to save Wenger if they don’t finish in the top four again.”
It is a bold assertion from Merson but common sense would suggest neither Manchester United nor Arsenal would take a decision to dismiss their manager come the end of the campaign.
Wenger signed a new contract only last summer and retains the support of those above him, even after the dismal display against Monaco in the last 16 Champions League first leg at Emirates Stadium.
To suggest Wenger would be forced to resign, even if Arsenal do miss out on the top four, is nothing more than wishful thinking. He will surely leave on his own terms when his deal expires in two years.
Van Gaal, meanwhile, would seem secure in his position also. The Dutchman has spend incredible sums to get Manchester United back into the top four and, even if this does not happen, he should be retained.
A fourth manager in two years would make no sense for Manchester United as they continue to rebuild post Sir Alex Ferguson, and Van Gaal’s record makes it clear he remains the best man for the short-term.
Will Louis van Gaal or Arsene Wenger be sacked?