“We are in all the competitions, just six points behind Manchester City, we have a lot of chances, a lot of titles to fight for”, said Louis, without the slightest hint of a giveaway smirk. He’d just watched his side ease past an utterly appalling Shrewsbury Town side to move into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Had we all been on a five month hike through the Bornean jungle, with no bog roll, let alone methods of communication, we could be forgiven for excitedly thinking that United are still in the title race (currently led by City) and cruising along in the knockout stages of the Champions League. But, of course, we haven’t been hiking in Borneo and know that Van Gaal is off with the fairies and/or trying to make us believe that the Europa League and fourth place in the Premier League were ever acceptable targets for Manchester United this season. What’s more, that six point gap to City may as well be twenty, because sides who’ve spent nearly four months in knocking-around-the-relegation-zone form and who are being outperformed by four of the sides below them in recent weeks have more chance of finishing 10th. Southampton have won as many league games in six weeks as United have in nearly five months. Louis thinks we are idiots. Some of us are, but Louis is still a fool.
“Louis Van Gaal has three matches to save his job”, cried some of the papers on Friday, after United had loltastically lost in Denmark against a team who had only won two of their last fourteen games and hadn’t played competitively for two months. Of course, some of them had said that in December too, making Louis’ faux-cry in an attempt to make us all feel sorry for his stubbornness, peppering the stories with ‘may’ and ‘could’ and thus exposing it as their opinion rather than informed writing. At the time it probably made everyone’s favourite scruffy weeble, Ed Woodward, more determined to keep his man than he was before. You see, United are a morally superior club, the choice of The Angels, AND WE DO NOT SACK OUR MANAGERS (especially when it would be the second shambles on the EVP’s watch and would make him look like a tool). And he wouldn’t want Louis’ friends and family to be upset again, in their gazillion pound mansions in the sun. He never got any criticism in those cradles of goodwill and loyalty, Bayern, Barca and Ajax.
The FC Midtjylland game was like watching something out of the Keystone Cops (YouTube is your friend kids). I lost count of the number of times an African footballer from a country with little football tradition turned on the ball sending two or three United players back to their mother’s wombs, often hilariously colliding with each other on the way. You had to feel a little bit sorry for young Donald Love, so utterly out of his depth. What was really touching was the way that his teammates, both at Sunderland and in Denmark, pretended to be hopelessly out of their depths too, so as to make him feel welcome. Sergio Romero who, like David De Gea, mostly trains well away from Van Gaal and who has thus not yet had the joy, soul and confidence sucked out of him, played heroically, but even he could not hold back the tide forever. The Danes scored to make it 2-1 and United did what they do best: nothing. “We can still qualify in the second game”, said Louis, triumphantly.
And so to Shrewsbury, a town and football club I know well, what with my BMF being a homie from that crib and a passionate follower of the local team, innit. I’ve not been to the New Meadow though, which looks sh*t. Gay Meadow was ace and I’m certain that United would not have liked playing there. On Monday night the ground looked like Legoland and the pitch appeared pristine. Time for DEATH BY PASSING. My mate assured me that Shrews are proper w**k and had just offloaded their three best players, recalling two strikers they had sent to Tranmere at the start of the season. I laughed at his innocence in thinking they couldn’t beat United. I mean, it was only a week ago that he was texting me from Blackpool with glee as his side went three up in about thirty seconds. Ultimately, though, they couldn’t, because they were truly as bad as he had predicted. United passed a lot and were boring and profligate, but Mike Smalling appeared in the box for no apparent reason and drilled in a deflected volley and Mata and Lingard wrapped things up. Professional job done, I suppose, and on to West Ham at Old Trafford in the quarter-final for a dose of realism and more dreams shattered. Actually, is anyone actually still dreaming of anything? I take it back. So, if the papers are to be believed and the manager has dodged another bullet, that’s Van Gaal in a job until 2019 at the very least.
Up at Old Trafford Towers we are told that there is a bit of bickering going on between The Weeble and Sir Alex of Govan, David Gill and everyone’s favourite moral guardian and Glazer-lover Sir Bobby Charlton. Ed, apparently, wants Jose to be his next wife, but the bastions of virtue, honour and highly-leveraged takeovers want someone nice and cuddly like Ryan. I mean, wouldn’t it be romantic to have a completely inexperienced and unproven former legend, controlled from above by an ancient and legendary Scottish puppeteer, as our next manager. Hands up if you agree! I already know you don’t. Polls on several fan forums have suggested that most of you would rather give your first-born child to ISIS than take a punt on a fairytale. Note, fairytales are fantasies. Jose, the big bad wolf, would make United win and stuff, but what about the fact that he’s a Machiavellian b*stard? “We’ve not had one of those before”, said Richard, totally ignoring the Scottish chap who rather successfully c*nted his way through 26-and-a-bit years at the club. Yeah, but Louis likes kids and Jose doesn’t. No bud, that’s Adam Johnson. Anyway, Louis only plays little boys when he has to, not because he trusts them. I mean, look at poor Adnan, five games and fired from a cannon to Germany. Or Pereira, or Wilson. Did you trust in those yoofs Louis, huh? I dare say that if Jose was told in no uncertain terms that he’d be hung, drawn and quartered if he didn’t value the academy that he’d play ball. Besides, the claims about this lack of trust are only part true. At Inter and Real Mourinho gave chances to youth team graduates like Davide Santon, Mario Balotelli and Alvaro Morata. There is also the claim that his sides don’t score many goals. Sure, he can be the arch-pragmatist, but his Real, Porto and early Chelsea sides were über-prolific. The biggest concern is that he enters clubs, eats, sh*ts and leaves, but he tends to win things along the way. United, some seem to have forgotten, is not about trust and loyalty, it’s about winning things. It has also always been a ‘sacking club’ (just like everyone else), except for those two long periods they had two of the most magnificent managers in world football ever.
Perhaps the greatest issue with the arrival of Jose would be Jorge Mendes, the evil genius of Old Lisbon taaaaan. He’d have Ed like putty in his hands, spunking money at client after client. The downside is that some may not be very good. The upside is that some may be very good. The problem United have is that without CL and with an increasingly negative reputation with players worldwide it would be hard to get anyone half decent to join. Jorge could make that happen. I’m throwing my hat into the ring with Jorge. He’s got such a nice smile.
Anyway, it looks like we’re stuck,with Louis and the Gang until the summer, unless United crash comically out of the Europa League on Thursday in front of a crowd so small that it can’t help but give Woody a touch of the squits. Frankly, Ed, we’ll be lucky to be in this tin-pot cup next year, let alone the one with the big ears. That’s potentially £100m+ in Champions League prize, TV and matchday money (or approximately 1/5 of United’s turnover) down the pan again and he’ll be a year closer to that nasty Adidas penalty clause. Who could blame him then for turning to Mourinho, as Inter director Bedy Moratti claims he has, although her word should hardly be gospel? But there’s as always an evens chance with Woodward that he’ll do something absolutely monumentally stupid, like appointing Ryan Giggs or putting his head in the oven instead of the Sunday roast. Let’s hope fear trumps stupidity.