You can say what you like about Louis van Gaal but give him one thing: he’s certainly a man who knows how to make history.
10 goalless Old Trafford first halves in succession is an achievement of which few ordinary mortals would be capable. And to lead a full-strength United at home for 70 minutes against a Third Division outfit before even hitting the target? Chapeau, maestro! Truly, we are blessed to be alive to witness such extraordinary events.
There’s a lot of talk in these online days about ‘the wisdom of the crowd’, and I was heartened to hear Old Trafford’s reaction to that 70th-minute shot at goal: a huge and heavily ironic cheer.
I fancy I detected some embarrassed chuckles in its wake too.
Not that all were united in their disdain for this new nadir.
A hardcore in the singing section, who are also disproportionately influential at away games, have apparently decided to stick it out to the bitter end, and could still be heard trying to get a chorus going of ‘LVG’s Red and White Army’.
At some moments, I admire their stubbornness, their refusal to bow in the face of the encroaching howls of the outside world; at others, it is hard to avoid thinking of the deluded 13-year-olds fighting the Red Army in 1945 Berlin.
It is safe to say that Paul Scholes surely spoke for the majority afterwards, when he bluntly told the television cameras that everyone was tired of the boredom, and that he was tired of trying to defend the indefensible.
Bearing in mind that this is a close pal of, and co-club owner with, LVG’s assistant Ryan Giggs, his comments were piquant, to say the least.
One can only wonder what might have happened at the whistle had United’s Fergietime penalty opportunity not popped up; somehow, one doubts the Red captured on TV eagerly seeking to shake LVG’s hand would have been quite so keen, for starters.
But as both Louis and Rooney were quick to point out afterwards, the ‘job’ had been done, however cackhandedly. We are in the next round, and any remaining romantics dreaming about a reprise of 1990 can continue to sleep in hope.
Travelling in hope this week may be too much to ask, though; in trepidation, more like.
Newcastle and Liverpool away constitute the kind of double-header Louis could probably have done without at this sensitive juncture. Certainly, there are those amongst the better-informed sections of the fanbase and in the media who continue to mutter that LVG is not out of the woods yet.
Indeed, you may have noted that the replacement speculation has failed to abate, with Pochettino, Guardiola, Ancelotti, Hughes, and Lolo Blanc all featuring in various United-related press stories this past week. Such tales are not procreated in a vacuum, despite the popular prejudice about hacks getting together to ‘invent’ stories.
As one veteran OT observer put it privately earlier in the week: “Louis was on the ledge at Stoke and had to be talked down by Ed. Who’s to say he won’t be back on that ledge again soon enough? And will Ed bother to pick up the megaphone next time?”
Of course, one thing that might stop him getting back out onto the ledge would be the arresting sight of an impressive transfer window in the way.
Louis rather unconvincingly tried this past weekend to dampen down any expectations of new blood, which hasn’t stopped widespread linkages to Felipe Anderson, Stones, Lukaku, and even — absurdly — Gareth Bale.
Insiders report that he is, in fact, prioritising a centre-back but wouldn’t be averse to a pacey striker as well. Whether Ed Woodward is prepared to put our money where his off-the-record mouth is and fully support his “genius” remains to be seen.
To rework the old caveat: would you buy this man a used car? Knowing Louis, after all, he’d probably reverse it into a wall...
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