Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal appears to be nearing an Old Trafford exit after falling to a fourth consecutive defeat at the hands of Stoke City. A tame, uninspired display couldn’t have contrasted more with the home side’s dynamic approach, and two first half goals from Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic proved enough to secure a win that saw Manchester United slip to sixth in the table.
Over the festive season, Premier League games come thick and fast as other European leagues enjoy winter breaks, and United’s latest defeat continues a miserable run of seven games without a win dating back to the end of November. Four consecutive defeats, including the crucial Champions League leg away at Wolfsburg and Premier League fixtures against Bournemouth, Norwich and Stoke City, have considerably weakened the position of a manager described recently by officials behind the scenes at United as a ‘genius’.
After the game, Van Gaal suggested that he intends to speak to the club’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, and hinted that he is considering offering his resignation. Van Gaal has always maintained that he will only stay as long as he is wanted, and the threat of resignation looms large as his side seem to grow more detached with every passing week.
“I can quit by myself but that is something I speak about with Ed Woodward by himself,” Van Gaal said. “I will speak with him first and then with my staff. I need to have a conversation but I do not need to tell you what I want to say. I am not so interested in public talking.”
Alongside the recent run of poor results, speculation has increased over Van Gaal’s position following the sudden availability of managerial heavyweights Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Before hiring David Moyes, the United hierarchy decided against approaching the Portuguese because of his divisive leadership style and questions over his suitability for a club with an embedded philosophy focused on youth and attacking football.
Whether the club’s current plight is motivated enough to reconsider Mourinho remains to be seen, especially given his acrimonious Chelsea departure earlier this month. Guardiola, on the other hand, would appear a much better fit when he leaves Bayern Munich in the summer, and has supposedly been keen on a move to Old Trafford in the past.
It seems little more than a matter of time for a manager who has struggled to fully convince Manchester United fans with his methods. Should he survive until Monday, a tough game at home to Chelsea beckons, where another bad result would leave considerable distance between Van Gaal’s United team and the minimum expectation of a fourth place finish. Time is running out for the man they call the Iron Tulip.