By Mark Payne
Now is the winter of Manchester United’s discontent. The dying embers of hope were extinguished by defeat in Denmark and Louis van Gaal is surely a dead man walking now. Devoid of inspiration, fight and any kind of momentum, United must surely make the change immediately before their decline becomes irreparable.
Louis van Gaal is not entirely to blame for what is happening at the club but it is he who must be removed unfortunately. His fit in the managerial chair has always been a slightly uncomfortable one and until the club have the right figurehead they will remain directionless.
This morning we read that ‘a group of senior players’ have lost faith in Van Gaal’s methods and favour Jose Mourinho taking over. This can only be strategically leaked information and one can assume that group includes Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, who approached the manager about a poor atmosphere a few months ago.
You have got to hand it to Jorge Mendes. In just over six weeks he has managed to turn Jose Mourinho from risky firebrand to the only decent solution available to stop United’s slide. He has played his hand superbly and Ed Woodward has not.
By letting on that the end of the season would be the right time for LVG to step aside, Ed has undermined his manager fatally and the death of this union is now a stumbling, painful certainty.
Jose wants the job and is determined to restore his reputation. That seems to be a reasonable combination and should bring with it some semblance of success. In the short term, his arrival would undoubtedly boost the squad and playing staff, and hopefully results.
In the long term, Mourinho will cause divisions in the hierarchy, dominate the narrative of the club and stifle some of the football in order to get results at all costs. Unfortunately, United have no choice but to go for him.
Ryan Giggs is not a viable option at this stage. Having put a couple of years into being a dutiful number two, he could be forgiven for expecting his chance but United’s situation is far too grave.
One wonders how much worse things will be allowed to get. Defeat to a tiny Dutch team in the Europa league is just unacceptable for a club with ambitions to be the best in Europe and the world. By any standards, this represents gross underachievement.
Things could deteriorate further though. The fans are resigned and almost numbed but what we are seeing at the moment. It is not beyond the realms of possibility for United to slip further down the league table and be dumped out of both cups in the next fortnight.
Will Woodward wait for this outcome before making the switch? Clearly there are reservation amongst the United hierarchy. Sir Bobby and Sir Alex are reticent about Jose but he is the only one who can feasibly rescue this mess.
He is motivated to do so and that should be enough for him to get his chance. Van Gaal looks like a defeated man now. It is time to put him out of his misery.
Mark is the author of Fergie’s Last Stand, just £3 this February
Follow him on www.twitter.com/markjpayne