TERRACE TALK: Manchester United - How much longer can Louis van Gaal panto possibly run?

Last week, after pointing out that our victory at Anfield shouldn’t deflect attention from the continuing awfulness of our performances, I concluded: “all we have done is given LVG a free pass for another couple of weeks, without settling any of the bigger questions.”

It turns out I was being uncharacteristically over-generous. 

The free pass lasted all of a single week, and we are now back where we were, at the status quo ante: with most of us howling for blood.

One can quibble about the semantics of whether the crowd finally properly ‘turned’ on Saturday evening. 

After all, boos at half-time and full-time are hardly unknown at O.T. this season — and in seasons past too, even under Fergie.

Booing during the match, however, such as we heard during the second quarter of the game, is a somewhat rarer fish.

Neither you nor I would wish to dwell on the dismal contents of Saturday’s disgraceful match, so let us make do with a summary. 

It encapsulated almost everything wrong with LVG United this season; from the baffling selection and tactics, via the stultifying threat-free tedium, to the laughably delayed last-gasp substitution.

 

Now what? 

Louis must be looking towards the looming cup-tie in the manner of a perambulating aristocrat spying a guillotine being readied at the end of a boulevard. 

It’s not certain his head will end up in it, but it’s there if it’s needed.

Louis reads the papers, after all, and he’s not stupid: he can read between the lines. 

What is it that’s nestling in those white spaces? 

Well, some allege, a nascent struggle behind the scenes, with an LVG-sceptic Alex Ferguson and David Gill on one side, facing a clingy Ed Woodward and sidekick Richard Arnold on the other.

It was surely no accident that David Gill chose to pop up on BBC radio for a rare interview yesterday, offering gnomic utterances and barely-veiled forebodings. 

Just as it was conveniently timed to see a story the previous Sunday, from a Fergie-friendly direction, punting a Giggs ‘n’ Alex dreamteam to rescue the club.

Certainly, the most common fan responses I heard to Saturday’s fiasco were variants of “how much longer things could possibly run?”

The answer remains: for as long as Ed Woodward wants it to, assuming he can keep LVG away from the window ledge.

For all the whispers of a Fergie/Gill ‘coup attempt’ from some media snouts last week, the corporate twin-layer set-up is such that Ed is beholden only to his beloved Glazer patrons.

I am told he has taken steps — rightly, some would argue, in view of past poor decisions — to keep Gill and Fergie well away from the engine room.

Gill and Fergie can only “advise” the senior board when invited to do so; we were left to infer what that advice would be, should they be asked about LVG’s future.

However, it’s an inference that’s surely as easy to draw as a stickman, and a judgment with which at least 90% of us would concur.

Were Ed to admit defeat and fire LVG within the next couple of weeks, his popularity with fans would temporarily rise as fast as his internal political capital would concomitantly collapse.

He’d finally achieve something he has reportedly always wanted — to be liked — at the cost of putting his own job at serious risk. For all of us, that’s what I’d call a win-win.


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