By Mark Payne
In Roman Catholic theology, Limbo is a region on the border of heaven and hell. For the past few months, Old Trafford and Manchester United have shared coordinates with this zone. The 1-1 draw against West Ham United in the FA Cup has done nothing to alter this state of affairs.
The next few days as United prepare for the return leg of their Europa League tie with Liverpool are a kind of stay of execution for Van Gaal. If there is anyone who remains happy with the manager, they are keeping quiet about it.
The results of Van Gaal’s United though keep pulling him out of the mire. He has cheated death several times in the past few months with unexpected victories when he seemed out for the count. Should United reverse the result against Liverpool, this would surely buy him more time again.
United have always made us suffer, for further reference read anything I have written in the past nine years. This season has provided more anguish than most though. United have not fully cemented their status as also-rans yet, they have provided tantalising glimpses of what they are capable of too.
The team, like the manager, are hard to pin down. It is difficult to decide what United are, other than completely infuriating. My suspicion is that things are a bit too chummy at Carrington. The players are not getting angry enough with each other after poor performances.
This is clearly upsetting the former pros too. Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand were incandescent with rage because of the manner of the loss against Liverpool, not so much the result. Players’ autobiographies are littered with anecdotes about bust ups and falling outs. You get the feeling the current players are just too nice to each other.
There are two ideas being mooted for his successor and unfortunately both have huge flaws. The installation of Jose Mourinho has not ignited the passions of anybody other than Jose Mourinho’s agent. The idea that Mourinho is the best option if United kick out LVG has a lot of evidence to support it though.
The other story doing the rounds is that Ed Woodward should employ a Ryan Giggs and Sir Alex Ferguson dream team. The idea would be that Fergie would act as mentor whilst Giggs sorted things out. This seems to be very much the idea of masters Giggs and Ferguson, the elder of which is said to be hugely unhappy at present.
I remember the dream team of John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish arriving at Celtic in 1999 and failing horrifically. Celtic were booted out of the Scottish Cup by Inverness and the Sun coined the classic headline Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic are Atrocious. Barnes was sacked well before his first season was out.
So it is another big week with the match against Liverpool followed by the league match against neighbours and, ahem, rivals for fourth place Manchester City. Lose all of that and Louis is surely a goner.
There could be another twist or two in the road though.
As a supporter, I expect to suffer a bit either way.
Mark is the author of Fergie’s Last Stand, just £4 this March
Follow him on www.twitter.com/markjpayne