In December, the Daily Mirror ran a poll asking Manchester United fans to vote on whether Louis van Gaal should be sacked.
89 per cent of voters said yes, he should.
It was a telling indictment of Van Gaal’s reign as United boss. Only 11 per cent of voters - and there were over 4,000 of them - wanted the Dutchman to stay.
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But if United’s board are to adhere to the club’s principles, they will afford Van Gaal at least another season at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s 27-year reign helped United become a bastion of consistency. By sacking Van Gaal, and moving on to a third manager in four years, they would stain that reputation.
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Ferguson brought 13 Premier League titles to Old Trafford but he won his first at the seventh time of asking. That’s five more attempts than Van Gaal will receive if he is sacked this campaign.
Five Premier League bosses have been sacked already this season. Jose Mourinho, Garry Monk and Tim Sherwood departed after leaving their respective clubs in grave danger of missing out on next season’s share of the £5.136 billion TV deal, while Jose Mourinho and Brendan Rodgers fell way below expectations.
Van Gaal does not qualify for either of those sackable offences.
Third richest club
Last year the Daily Mirror reported that missing out on the 2014-15 Champions League cost the club £35 million. A significant loss but not enough to prevent United ranking third in Forbes’ list of richest teams in the world with a value of £2.03 billion, more than double Manchester City’s worth (£906m).
The club’s revenue is significantly boosted by their £750m kit deal with Adidas. The deal, which came into effect this season and sees United earn £75m over 10 years, trumps Nike’s previous £23.5m-a-year deal with United.
So, even if United do not qualify for next year’s Champions League, it will have the same overall effect as Bill Gates dropping a five dollar note.
Yet United are still in with a chance of winning the league, letting alone finishing in the top four. They are fifth in the table, seven points behind leaders Arsenal and Leicester. United fans will know full well that a seven point deficit isn’t insurmountable after Ferguson’s heroics of 1995-96, when he led United to a 12-point comeback over Newcastle.
United’s fans are frustrated at United’s dull, functional style, and so they should be. Football is a form of entertainment and United do not entertain.
But Van Gaal’s job requires him to win football games. How that is achieved, Van Gaal doesn’t care. 1-0 win in a game where United had two shots on target? Van Gaal will take it.
There will come a time, of course, when enough becomes enough. Another principle Ferguson instilled was that United should play attacking, fluent football and Van Gaal has a right to continue that.
It’s well known that Van Gaal’s regime is rigorous but the Dutchman is taking steps to relax his training sessions and is now letting his players have lunch whenever they desire.
Whether that becomes the first step in United eventually playing an unshackled brand of football under Van Gaal, we will see.
If, come this time next season, the style hasn’t improved and United continue to flirt with a top four spot instead of asserting themselves as the part of the Premier League’s elite, the board will be right to explore other options.
Until then, Van Gaal, winner of titles in Holland, Spain and Germany, must be given another shot at cracking England.