Before Christmas, it was suggested that Louis van Gaal had two games to save his job, and yet Manchester United have lost one of those and drawn the other, scoring no goals in either.
In both games — the first a 2-0 defeat by Stoke and the second yet another goalless draw, this time with Chelsea — United totally dominated possession but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Stoke took advantage of two United mistakes on Dec. 26, with their first goal coming after an incredibly feeble pass attempt by Memphis Depay. The Dutchman was 25 yards away from David De Gea, but the ball travelled just three yards in his header back to the goalkeeper and Bojan capitalised.
Stoke’s second goal came when Ashley Young opted to block the ball with his hand, instead of his head, on the edge of the penalty area. Depay was at fault again when failing to close down Marko Arnautovic as he struck the ball brilliantly.
There was a feeling that after this game, particularly in light of Van Gaal’s abrupt prematch news conference, that the manager was on borrowed time. Surely this was just one poor performance too many?
However, Van Gaal was still in charge for the Chelsea game. To be fair to him, United were much better in this 0-0 draw, and on another day would have won. Juan Mata and Anthony Martial both hit the woodwork, United should have had two penalties — for a foul on Mata and handball from Willian — and Thibaut Courtois made a world-class save to deny Ander Herrera, who revealed after the game that he was ready to celebrate before he realised his attempt had somehow been kept out.
At a different point in this season, United fans might be more forgiving of the result against Chelsea, but since it was the eighth game in a row in which United failed to win, patience has run out. Van Gaal’s men have drawn seven and lost one of their most recent games at home, with the last first-half goal scored by the home side at Old Trafford coming way back in September. And that was a penalty.
United’s next two fixtures are both at home, with them first taking on Swansea in the league before facing Sheffield United in the FA Cup. If Van Gaal can’t win both of these games convincingly, his time must surely be up.
Morgan Schneiderlin had some words of encouragement for the fans, revealing there were discussions before the Chelsea game among the players that stressed the importance of playing attacking football. While United didn’t set the world alight on Monday evening, the football was certainly an improvement over what has been dished out recently. They did create fantastic opportunities to score, which is more than can be said of most of their games in recent months.
Still, United’s opposition were a team who, despite being champions, are just three points away from the relegation zone, and we are now halfway through the season. How much positivity can fans really muster for a goalless draw at home against a team in a relegation scrap?
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and even fans who have long said they wouldn’t want Jose Mourinho anywhere near their club are now changing their minds. The craving for silverware, with withdrawal symptoms reaching a new high after decades of being spoilt by Sir Alex Ferguson, means that all common sense is going out the window.
United supporters are well aware that after two or three years of Mourinho, the club could be in a much worse position than they are currently. The Portuguese has shown in previous jobs that he doesn’t leave much of a legacy, but at least chances are good that they will have won a trophy or two by then.