Louis van Gaal alleviated the pressure on his shoulders, ever so slightly, with a convincing 3-0 win over League One outfit Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday night.
This was the perfect response from Manchester United after last Thursday’s embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Midtjylland, a club formed a few months before the Red Devils won the treble in 1999, in the Europa League.
Van Gaal signed a few autographs for fans outside Shrewsbury’s home ground, New Meadow, after the match and responded brilliantly to one supporter who wished him good luck for the rest of the season. (Scroll down this page to watch the video, provided by BT Sport).
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“All the best for the rest of the season, mate,” the fan told Van Gaal.
The veteran Dutch coach replied: “Yeah. We need it, otherwise I shall be sacked!”
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The fan added: “I don’t think so. You’ll cost them too much money, mate.”
“Yeah?” Van Gaal said, with a smile. “You know that?”
United must pay Van Gaal £10m if they sack him now
One would assume that the supporter was referring to the news - broken by The Sun earlier on Monday - that Manchester United would need to pay £10 million to sack their current manager while Champions League qualification remains a mathematical possibility.
Van Gaal’s men are currently fifth in the Premier League table, six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, but their hopes of securing top-level European football for next season were dealt a blow with a shock 2-1 defeat to relegation-threatened Sunderland earlier this month.
It wasn’t, however, a fatal blow to their hopes of sealing Champions League football. There are still 12 matches left to play and 36 points up for grabs - so plenty can, and will, happen between now and the end of the season.
While last night’s win may only have been against Shrewsbury, it could provide the much-needed confidence boost that Manchester United required to go on a run.
Another false dawn?
But will it prove to be yet another false dawn?
United beat Derby County away from home in the FA Cup fourth round last month and followed that up with a surprise 3-0 win over Stoke City and a decent 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
But then they suffered back-to-back defeats against Sunderland and Midtjylland.
For United fans under Van Gaal, it has frequently felt like a case of one step forwards followed by two steps backwards.
The Red Devils must beat Midtjylland in the return leg at Old Trafford on Thursday night and then avoid defeat against title challengers Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon to convince supporters that Monday evening’s victory wasn’t a mere one-off.
Manchester United fans: should Louis van Gaal be given until the end of the season? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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