Louis van Gaal: The ultimate last chance saloon poker player

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Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, according to the UK tabloids, has been on the brink of getting sacked multiple times this season, and in fairness, it’s hard to argue with that assumption.

United have suffered a highly disappointing season, they have been eliminated from the Champions League, despite having a relatively easy group, they have lost to arch rivals Liverpool in the Europa League, and a top four place in the Premier League looks increasingly unlikely.

On top of all this is the availability of a certain Jose Mourinho, who was fired from his job at Chelsea in December following a horrific start to the new Premier League campaign.


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A culmination of all these factors certainly gives plenty of ammunition to the theory Van Gaal’s time is up.

A loss in the FA Cup quarter final replay against West Ham United could well have been the final nail in the coffin, with the build-up for this game not being very positive after being blasted away by Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane in the league.

The press reported unrest in the team regarding Van Gaal's tactics and the build-up to the game had a sense of 'last chance saloon', with the tabloids waiting to pounce on another United loss.

However, luckily for United and Van Gaal they had been there before and the team continues to show a remarkable level of resilience. Goals from Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini booked their place in the FA Cup semi-finals and a trip to Wembley.

This isn't the first time Van Gaal's men have picked up important results when their backs are against the wall.

Three other key results spring to mind.

Shrewsbury Town 0-3 Man United - FA Cup 4th round

On paper this does not seem the most impressive result.

Shrewsbury are a struggling league one team (currently 20th). United however had suffered back-to-back defeats to Sunderland in the league and FC Midtjylland in the Europa League, meaning a loss to Shrewsbury would have been unthinkable.

United pulled through as comfortable winners, despite suffering from injuries to a number of key players.

Man United 5-1 FC Midtjylland - Europa League last-32

When Man United were drawn against the Danish champions, few people claimed to have even heard of them, such was their short history having been formed in 1999.

The absentees in United’s striking department was remarkable, following injuries to Wayne Rooney and Will Keane (who was injured as a sub against Shrewsbury).

Anthony Martial was then injured in the warm up to this game giving Marcus Rashford his first start at the age of eighteen.

United looked to be going out when Midtjylland scored early taking a 3-1 aggregate lead, however, United fought back and thanks to two goals from Rashford secured a place in the next round.

Man United 1-1 West Ham - FA Cup Quarter Final

United came into this game following a Premier League defeat to West Brom and a humbling 2-0 defeat by Liverpool in the first leg of their last 16 Europa League tie.

The odds of turning around the tie against their fierce-rivals seemed low, therefore United's only real trophy prospect remained in the FA Cup.

They were up against an in form West Ham side whose manager Slaven Bilic had prioritised the FA Cup over finishing in the top four.

West Ham took the lead from a brilliant Dimitri Payet free kick in the 68th minute but United again showed this remarkable resilience and continued to fight on and Anthony Martial's 83rd minute equaliser earned them a replay.

Fast forward to United's FA Cup win against West Ham in the replay has bought the manager more time.

The fans can look forward to a trip to Wembley and a first piece of silverware since the Premier League title in Sir Alex Ferguson's last season is very much up for grabs.

Van Gaal's season seems to replicate a novice poker player, whilst it seems his luck is up, his final hand keeps him in the game. It’s hard to decipher whether this is sheer luck or tactical prowess, time will tell and at the end of the season and the board will have to judge if he has done a good enough job to carry on.

Will Louis van Gaal be in the Old Trafford dugout come next season? Have YOUR say in the comment section below!

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