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Manager Watch: Mourinho vs. Guardiola

Manager Watch
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 By Andy Mitten

Man United fans have had enough of Van Gaal, the team and this season

In between two Europa League games against Liverpool that provided another low point in Manchester United's depressing season, West Ham United visited Old Trafford in the quarterfinal of the FA Cup.

Now they are out of Europe, it's the one competition United still have a chance of winning, though a replay at Upton Park in April will be tough and the form of Louis van Gaal's team gives little confidence to fans. Many would just like the 2015-16 season to end now, the manager to be replaced and for the team to start again next term.

At Old Trafford on Sunday, Van Gaal had named a side to play West Ham that featured a five-man defence, which mirrored how he expected his opponents to line up. Then the Hammers' team sheet arrived in the home dressing room and the United's manager subsequently switched tactics and opted to play four at the back.

A few minutes into the game, Van Gaal instructed a reversion to five in defence and Marcos Rojo, who started as a central defender, swapped with Daley Blind and moved to left-back. But not every player understood the instruction and some were unsure whether United were playing with four or five at the back.

Players who weren't used to changing their tactics for anyone at Old Trafford were baffled and surprised, but also resigned to the decisions of a manager who is absolutely convinced by his own methods. They used to work; they're not working now.

The dressing room has been largely stripped of the warrior-like characters which once made it great. The players there now just do their best. They work hard in training, stay professional and take home massive salaries from a club that pays as well as anyone in the world, even if the team is nowhere near the top.

After Sunday's game, West Ham manager Slaven Bilic say that United were disorganised. That was polite. Other adversaries praise in public and are privately stunned about how mediocre United are and have been for three seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

Bilic also said that no team comes to Old Trafford as favourites, but that's not true anymore. United weren't close to making either of Friday's European draws and the world is passing them by, with the greatest games being played anywhere but Old Trafford.

United have become a sideshow to all but their own fans. There are still millions of them and the atmosphere was superb in the first half on Thursday until Liverpool equalised, but it's not enough. Meanwhile, others are gripped by watching the club's continuing woes.

Being knocked out of the Europa League by Liverpool was the latest disappointment this season for Manchester United.

United have never been richer financially, yet the form and quality in the team is poor. The club are regressing, not improving, and the global sponsors that continue to hand over millions will only do it for so long if the team doesn't win. No company wants to back a loser in the long term; they want their products associated with the feel good factor of success.

Whoever takes over from Van Gaal -- and it seems implausible that he sees out his three-year contract -- has a significant rebuilding job, the type which the Dutchman was supposed to do. He sanctioned many expensive signings as part of the process but, on the evidence seen so far, he's largely failed in the transfer market.

Van Gaal ploughs on, his arrogance and self-assurance leading him to discount the opinions of those around him because he has absolute belief in his own ability to change and improve. His approval ratings among fans dived after a disastrous December and haven't picked up since.

Fans still fill Old Trafford for almost every game and there can be no complaints about their support, yet Van Gaal misreads this as a proof that they have patience that he's getting things right. When he says: "I'm not angry, I'm not frustrated. I was proud of my players, they gave everything. The fans also applauded," as he did after Thursday's game, then it's only going to be taken one way by fans still reeling after elimination.

Jurgen Klopp enjoys the confidence and support of Liverpool fans and players. Van Gaal does not, but hangs on in there as if he doesn't want to end his superb career as a failure. It's quite sad, because he was a great coach and he's a decent person.

He still believes that he can turn things around and prove his many detractors wrong. He uses criticism as a motivational tool, yet his side continues to fail: United have won only nine of their last 24 games and it's not unreasonable to judge Van Gaal after 88 games in change overall.

Elimination by Liverpool was the latest low and that goalkeeper David De Gea was the best United player in both legs says much of how many chances the Anfield club created. The Spaniard deserves to be playing for a far better team, though at least he's being kept busy at present.

This Liverpool is no vintage outfit but they deserved to advance past United. You can see that Klopp, a man United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward once described as "a genius" is making progress while United regress.

United's next game is the Manchester derby at City on Sunday. The games are coming thick and fast for a failing team and Van Gaal said his players wouldn't be able to train after Thursday and before Sunday.

His side can still pull the odd remarkable result out -- they beat Arsenal less than a month ago -- but fans have had enough. They can see no bright future under Van Gaal, as the slow but sure decline of Manchester United continues.

Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter @AndyMitten.

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