The case for sacking Louis van Gaal at Manchester United

As the boos rang down from the half empty stands of Old Trafford following Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Norwich City on Saturday, one thing was clear. Manager Louis van Gaal had lost the support of the fans. You’ll notice the word “shock” was not used to describe the loss. In previous years, a 2-1 loss at home to a newly promoted side would be the most shocking defeat of the season. This year, it’s just another defeat, coming just a week after a 2-1 loss to Bournemouth, another newly promoted side.

Unfortunately for Manchester United fans, these results are not only becoming all too common, but also very predictable in Louis van Gaal’s second season in charge. The club has gone six straight games without a win, and have won just four times in their last 14 matches. They recently were eliminated from the Champions League despite needing to win just one of their last two group stage matches. Futility like this hasn’t been seen at Old Trafford since the 1980’s.

Van Gaal fell into the good graces of fans last season when he led the club back to the top four following the disastrous seventh place finish under David Moyes. Despite defender Phil Jones recently saying the mood in the dressing room was worse under David Moyes, the results from this season are making van Gaal’s total record in charge of United, eerily similar to that of Moyes.

In the eyes of Manchester United fans, winning isn’t enough, rather you need to win with style. Van Gaal’s system has always drawn criticism for achieving results in a boring way, but now the results aren’t even there. For a manager, you can either sell results or hope that the future will be better. Right now, van Gaal can’t sell either of those.

United fans are growing frustrated watching this team. One of the things that made Sir Alex Ferguson such a great manager was the way he constructed his teams. In his most recent book, Sir Alex talked about how the pitch at Old Trafford is amongst the biggest in the league and United were always trying to take advantage of that. This would lead to them tiring out opponents and was a major reason why they were able to score so many late goals.

Van Gaal’s philosophy doesn’t allow that. Players aren’t allowed to run at defenders and the system doesn’t seem to utilize the vast space of Old Trafford. If you’re not running at defenders, you don’t force defenders to foul you. This is a major reason why United’s opponents don’t seem to pick up bookings, and why United never seem to win any penalties these days.

Perhaps the biggest indictment against van Gaal, is his belief that once a match starts the manager can no longer have an effect on the match. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are tactical adjustments, formation adjustments or just little tid-bits of advice that a manager can relay to the players. On Saturday against Norwich, it was a very telling picture so see van Gaal sitting in his seat the entire game, while Ryan Giggs spent most of the second half on the touch line trying to inspire a United comeback.

The biggest argument coming out of Manchester United supporters is that they don’t want to become “a sacking club.” The counter argument of course is, who does? No one sets out to sack a manager. In an ideal world, everyone wants their manager to stick around for 25 years. If you realize your manager isn’t the right guy to stick around for the long haul, it’s better to move on sooner rather then later. Holding onto the wrong manager for too long could cause way more harm further down the road.

The case for moving on from van Gaal isn’t as simple as just letting him go. United first need to figure out what direction they want to go in next. Does Ryan Giggs become their next manager? What about Jose Mourinho? If the answer is either of them, they can seemingly cut ties with van Gaal tomorrow and move on. It’s not as simple as that now that Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola has announced that he will leave Bayern at the end of his contract, effectively throwing his hat in the ring.

If United want to go in the Guardiola direction, they need to decide when to cut ties with van Gaal. They can do it now and work out a contract with Pep, but who will manage United for the rest of the season? If Giggs is ready for half a season, why isn’t he ready for the role full time? If they wait too long to make a move, will Giggs leave to take the open Swansea job?

There is a lot of uncertainty around Manchester United now but one thing is clear, the fans no longer want Louis van Gaal.

About Pauly Kwestel

Pauly is a Producer for WFAN in New York and the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has been writing about the beautiful game since 2010 and can be followed on twitter @pkwestelWFAN