Top four in doubt, Louis van Gaal’s future more fragile than ever

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LONDON — Manchester United’s shambolic, slumping season hit a new low on Sunday as Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-0 win — their first home victory against United in 15 years — showed us all just how little progress United has made under Louis Van Gaal.

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On the first day of this season, Aug. 8 to be exact, Van Gaal’s United were outplayed by Spurs for vast swathes of their clash at Old Trafford.

They came away with a 1-0 win thanks to a fortuitous own goal but in a season where they’ve crashed out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage, suffered humiliating defeats and LVG’s played players out of position with injuries an issue, but not the biggest one, the Dutchman is now on borrowed time.

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Someone should read him his last rights as United’s manager. This won’t last much longer and although there have been low points over the past two seasons this could be one of the final nails in his coffin.

Despite contrasting reports last week regarding his future at Old Trafford, if United fail to make the top four then his time must be up. Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has kept the faith in Van Gaal when fans, pundits, former players and many others have doubted him. Two years into LVG’s three-year deal, it’s hard to see him lasting beyond this summer.

Four points off Manchester City with six games to go, United is in a last chance saloon to secure a top four finish. Van Gaal believes they’re still in the hunt but for most of his post-game comments he talked about just how good Tottenham is.

“We are still in the race but when you lose a game you have to close the gap again,” Van Gaal said. “I think Tottenham is a great team. I have said that in advance of this match. Until the first goal we were a good team who were playing good football in Tottenham and also had a big chance for a goal. The way that we played until the first goal, it was good.”

He seemed happy enough with keeping Spurs at bay. Van Gaal was then asked about deciding to not manage Tottenham two years ago and instead joining United, with the clubs in vastly different situations as we head into the final weeks of this season.

“I think in the balance we are still ahead. You take one match as something I have to say the challenge is bigger?” Van Gaal said. “The challenge is always bigger in a bigger club. But I liked also to sign for Tottenham Hotspur and Daniel Levy knows that but the challenge was bigger for me at Manchester United and always shall be bigger. I am sorry for Tottenham but Manchester United is a bigger club. I think it is a little bit pathetic that you ask that because they have won 3-0. But okay, you enjoy yourself, I think.”

No United fan would’ve enjoyed themselves watching their team play on Sunday. It would now take a miracle for this disjointed, patched up United to finish the season strong and for LVG to lead them to FA Cup glory and a top four finish.

On Sunday we saw a United side devoid of real attacking creativity — Anthony Martial‘s second half effort was their only real chance on goal — and a side who were hanging on at Tottenham for a 0-0 draw. Van Gaal was happy enough with that and therein lies the problem.

He pointed to a defensive collapse in five second half minutes when Spurs scored all three goals but he refused to admit his players are crumbling under the pressure of pushing for a top four finish.

“I do know the media wants to write that but you have to analyze the facts,” Van Gaal told ProSoccerTalk. “The facts is that the second goal is a set play. Tottenham has made the most goals from corner kicks and free kicks. We knew in advance it was very difficult. We had a very good organization because Rojo was on Alderweireld. We have seen it and analyzed it well but it happens in football. It cannot happen… but it happens. That was the second goal and then within three minutes and then I can imagine that you lose your head a minute maybe but still you have to give the credit to the attack of Tottenham. The third goal was a fantastic goal I think.”

Sure, Spurs are enjoying a great season and are just seven points off top spot but with the money they’ve spent, the huge fanbase they have and every other metric you want to use, Van Gaal’s words about United being a bigger club than Spurs are spot on. They just aren’t playing like it. Not even close.

LVG’s so-called “bigger team” are miles behind Tottenham and after scrapping a fourth place finish last season, the fact they are scrapping away for the same position this campaign shows just how much they are regressing.

This can’t go on much longer. Sunday showed just how far United has fallen under Van Gaal.