It’s sad when a relationship ends, even when you’ve been with a defensive rooster of a man who seemed iconoclastic at first but has withered in conviction with age. A serious late season charge could still save Louis Van Gaal’s job at United, but with Mou lurking and Woodward silent, the writing seems to be on the wall.
Or, rather, in the British dailies.
LVG’s pressers have gotten progressively bitter and paranoid as the season has dragged on, not unlike Mourinho. The story about him being shocked that a British daily ran a story on him offering his resignation in January made me laugh. British dailies thrive on football rumors and half-truths. How could a story about a struggling manager offering to resign really shock anybody? Rather, it’s pretty run-of-the-mill. You are either winning and they’re terrified Manchester City will poach you for millions, or you’re on the cusp of a dreaded and always fatal “statement of confidence.”
Still, when we look back at this season, I would like pinpoint the end of the LVG era as this February 5 Telegraph story about him and club captain Michael Carrick. Basically, the two believed that a win could propel them “back into the title race” because all the top-four clubs were playing one another the next week and presumably would drop points. This story was troubling for oh so many reasons.
First, for a club used to leading the title charge, the recurrent headlines of the LVG era have been “back in the title race.” The club stutters through barren goalless patches but then strings together two wins and the Red Devils are “back in it.” For older fans, the question is: why are we ebbing into and out of the title race? Consistency and invention are the drivers of success.
Second, a proud club like United is used to looking behind at second place after every fixture, not hoping and staring the schedule of numerous rival clubs. The fact that Christmas came and fans looked at the calendar of games for Spurs and Leicester with trepidation and curiosity says a lot about the state of our club. There was a time when Sir Alex inspired confidence in even role players like John O’Shea to nutmeg Luis Figo in do-or-die Champions League games. Now not even our allegedly “creative” midfielders have the courage to dribble at a marker. All passes go sideways and backwards when the going gets tough.
Of course, LVG has done some good things. He convinced the owners to spend large sums of money and good and promising players. However, if you use the “reworking aging roster” excuse in year one for not reaching your goals, in year two you can’t complain about an injury crisis. These horses are yours, not anybody’s else’s. Wrinkles and faulty hamstrings and all.
Thus, the LVG-era will end with a whimper as United fans (and the coach and club captain) stare at rival club’s fixture lists and pray for upsets. What started with hope has led to a very, very dark place.