Nothing is beautiful at Manchester United and everything hurts.
With Manchester United’s recent bout of milquetoast football and middling results, Louis van Gaal has been under tremendous pressure to keep his job. Last month we wrote extensively on Van Gaal’s shortcomings; most of that remains true and in the interim more curious episodes have developed in the LvG saga, such as his storming out of a press conference before Christmas and publicly admitting he gets bored watching his own team.
With so many question marks hanging over United’s technical area, the club is now having to deal with a flurry of rumors and trying to decide which to address and which to let hang in the air. Two stories in the past week illustrate how much of a mess the club offices have fallen into.
First, there’s the rumor reported in the French sporting press that United executives met with Pep Guardiola in Paris last week to discuss the soon-to-be-vacant managerial position. While Manchester City and Chelsea are thought to be ahead in the race to land the outgoing Bayern Munich manager, Manchester United are still in the mix, albeit in a somewhat precarious position. The club have since publicly denied the story. Whether the denial is sincere or an attempt to keep up appearances is up for speculation.
Meanwhile, another rumor broke this week that United have put the kibosh on major transfer deals this window. It was thought previously that the club would try to bring in one or two new players to bolster the squad for a run at the Top 4 in the second half of the season. Yet club executives have apparently shelved their plans to enter the transfer market this month because of the uncertainty surrounding Van Gaal’s tenure, preferring not to authorize funds for a manager who may not even last the rest of the season.
All else aside, it’s worth remembering that United are still firmly in the Top 4 conversation, sitting just two points behind Tottenham in fourth place. It’s also likely that Van Gaal bought himself a little more time with the win over Liverpool last weekend. (Disgruntled as United fans are, beating Liverpool is still the fastest way to their hearts.) There’s still a lot of time to turn things around and a lot of talent in the side with which to do so. Whether that’ll actually happen is another matter. And if the flurry of recent rumors are to be believed, Van Gaal’s margin of error is likely very, very thin.