So much for any post-Upton Park honeymoon period, judging by two colleagues’ exchange after the whistle on Saturday.
“Is this really what we have come to: desperately holding on to a 1-0 lead against possibly the worst side seen since the formation of the Premier League? At home?”
The atmosphere told its own sorry story too, as this sardonic post on the old Red Issue public website reflected: “It’s official then. Aston Villa have lost their Premier League status and the dearly departed would like to thank Manchester United and their supporters for the respectful 90 minutes of silence.”
I prepared myself afterwards for the usual volley of nonsensical wibble from Van Gaal, and he didn’t disappoint.
The pick of his guff was this: “I know it is difficult against a defensively organised team like Aston Villa.”
Villa have conceded 65 goals in 34 games, the worst record in the league. Tell me: what colour is the sky on your planet, Louis? And how soon can we send you back there permanently?
Yet United are still clinging on like dingleberries to the edges of fourth place, and into the FA Cup semi-finals.
We must keep reminding ourselves of these facts, and of the amusing/terrifying truth LVG may yet end up being able to proclaim what he would call ‘a successful season’.
Hovering vulture-like over this ongoing agony remains José Mourinho, now more confident than ever he will be in charge come June. Or so my spooks in Lisbon tell me anyway, and they are seemingly not alone in this belief.
Tellingly, this past week has seen the first leaks and whispers to my snouts bivouacked outside both the Ryan Giggs and Alex Ferguson camps that they, too, are increasingly resigned to the increasingly inevitable.
Even inside Louis’ own walls, there appears to be an acceptance that it will be tough for him to soldier on — even if he secures one of his two aims this May, ie fourth spot and/or the FA Cup.
Spies near the homesteads of both his wife and one of his daughters report “concerns” about the effects on his well-being of another year in the Old Trafford maelstrom, for example.
The situation was smartly summed up by the United fan and BBC presenter Mark Chapman, who suggested to viewers yesterday that next weekend’s Everton/United semi-final would, uniquely, feature two teams whose fans wanted to win the Cup, but who feared the ultimate consequences — namely, the continuing employment of their unpopular managers.
One hastens to add that there can be no room for doubt here: every Red I know is desperate to win the Cup, after a dozen years of drought.
It is quite clearly there for the taking, too; even a United outfit as wretched as this one is still evidently the best team left in the competition.
But if it does go pear-shaped against the Toffees at Wembley, there will be no shortage of Louis-loathing Reds who, sotto voce, will be beginning their self-commiseratory postmatch sentences with “well, at least this means...”
Columnar note to self: always end with either a joke, a prediction or a historical omen. I don’t do predictions, and I’m in a foul mood, so omen it is.
Back in 1970, United and City also reached FA Cup and European semi-finals respectively. And the sides had last won league titles three and two seasons before, just as today.
United also reached their semi after a replay against Londoners. (Getting spooky, huh?) United then lost their semi, whereas City went on to win their European trophy — and the United boss would not see out the year.
Meh. I don’t know whether that’s made you feel better or worse, but I’d love to think someone might tell Louis that one.
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