Louis van Gaal back at work but for how long?

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal was back at his desk yesterday morning amid speculation he is about to be replaced by Jose Mourinho.
Louis van Gaal back at work but for how long?

The pressure increased on Van Gaal on Saturday when United stretched their winless run to six matches with an embarrassing home defeat to Norwich.

The loss meant United dropped out of the top four in the Premier League and the club’s supporters made their feelings known during the match and after the final whistle.

The home fans who were left inside Old Trafford booed their team off following the 2-1 defeat and some cried Mourinho’s name during the game.

Mourinho is a free agent following his sacking by Chelsea and the Portuguese has reportedly made it known that he would be happy taking over at Old Trafford if a vacancy arises in the near future.

Mourinho has no plans to take a sabbatical and United are thought to be one of four big European clubs the 52-year-old would consider joining.

United have refused to comment on speculation that Van Gaal has two games to save his job, but it is understood the Dutchman was at the club’s training base in Carrington yesterday continuing his work as normal.

The 64-year-old was also at the Aon Training Complex on Sunday.

In the immediate aftermath of the defeat, Van Gaal insisted he had the support of United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and the players.

The United manager said: “Ed was very fast out of the dressing room but I feel that support, yes.

“The most important support is from the players because the players have to do it on the pitch and the chemistry between the players and the manager and his staff is very important.”

Despite those words, Van Gaal must be cursing his luck that two of the best managers in football have become available during the most challenging period of his 17-month spell at the club.

Mourinho was keen on taking the United job when Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, but the Scot chose David Moyes as his successor instead.

Ferguson and director Bobby Charlton were known to have doubts about Mourinho, but they will have only a minor say in who succeeds Van Gaal should he be axed.

Woodward and the club’s owners the Glazer family will bear that responsibility should the situation arise.

As well as Mourinho, Pep Guardiola will be available in the summer as he is leaving Bayern Munich.

Meanwhile, statistics released yesterday show United’s insistence on playing possession football means they take far more passes for every shot than any other Premier League team.

According to details from leading football data specialists Opta, league leaders Leicester City need only 46 successful passes for a shot on target. That is the fewest in the league while United’s 131 passes is the most.

Perhaps most damning is the face United have managed just seven shots on target in their last four home games — also the worst record in the league — leading to regular chants of “attack, attack, attack” from the Old Trafford faithful.

The total number of shots on target from 17 games is 61, the 15th lowest. Tottenham are top with 110 and Manchester City second with 104.

United playmaker Juan Mata, meanwhile, insists he and his teammates can arrest their slump over the next week when they face Stoke and Chelsea.

Addressing fans in his weekly blog, the Spaniard wrote: “We are really disappointed for not giving you what you deserve, because your support is amazing and unconditional, but I’m sure that we will turn this situation around.”

Mata was disappointed to lose to Norwich but hopes the Red Devils can return to winning ways at Stoke on St Stephen’s Day. “I was confident that we were going to get the three points on Saturday in Old Trafford, but that was not the case.”

The 27-year-old will come up against former club Chelsea, now managed by Guus Hiddink, on December 28. He said: “We are in a complicated situation and in order to get out of it we have to stick together and believe in ourselves so we can get a positive result as soon as possible.

“We all feel frustrated, same as last week, and we need to win a game as quickly as possible because it will change our mood and give us confidence, I’m sure of that.

“Our next chance to do it will be on Boxing Day at Stoke, and that’s not an easy game. No matter how tough the situation can be, I’m not even thinking about giving up.

“I believe that’s the only way to get out of this bad streak: Keep working hard and sooner or later we will get the results that we want.”

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