Given the depth of resources, most Manchester United fans wouldn’t care too much if Louis van Gaal was released early from his contract, even if it cost their club £8m.
In a billion-pound industry, this is an understandable attitude. However, there are some perfectly viable on-pitch reasons why the Red Devils should stick rather than twist with their divisive Dutchman.
Virtually two-thirds of the way in to a three-year contract, all is not as gloomy as it’s often been portrayed at Old Trafford under LVG.
Silverware and possible top-four finish still loom
The FA Cup is hardly in the bag, but a first trophy in three barren seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson retired is rated at 4/11, suggesting the Red Devils are closing in. Wins over West Ham and Everton in the latter rounds can only breed confidence, especially against a backdrop of poor Crystal Palace form in 2016.
The restorative effects of hoisting a trophy cannot be underestimated. Meanwhile, the race for the top four is far from over, with big rivals Manchester City looking infinitely catchable and facing a stern test against Arsenal next. Silverware and Champions League qualification would have to be seen as successful.
LVG has a CV splattered with titles
It is true that the 13-time champions have not threatened the summit of the Premier League over Van Gaal’s reign, which is a particularly galling notion to a club used to owning that particular perch.
Then again, Ferguson didn’t claim a title until his fifth full season with United, a tenure much scrutinised in its early stages, which was probably only saved by an initial FA Cup success for the Scot in 1989/90. Patience levels have undoubtedly changed, as have the expectation levels at Old Trafford, thanks to their greatest manager.
However, Van Gaal has shown himself to be capable of earning titles in quicker time than that. At Ajax and AZ, Eredivisie crowns were earned within three seasons (three straight at Ajax), while he lifted La Liga and Bundesliga titles during his debut campaigns at Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively. It’s got to be worth the risk to see if he can continue this brilliant record.
The fresh talent he has nurtured at Old Trafford
Youth-team players like Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah were little known to anyone outside of Manchester at the beginning of the season, but not so now. The former seems to be an Old Trafford superstar in the making and the latter looks like a future defensive stalwart. Van Gaal has shown conviction in blooding these youth team players, among others, and he should be lauded for it. For all those crying out for the Dutchman to evoke Old Trafford traditions, few are more synonymous with United than giving youth a chance.
United are finishing the season playing attractive football
There is possession football, such as the thing of beauty Barcelona have cultivated in recent seasons, and then there is the paint-drying stuff United appeared to be playing for a long time under Van Gaal. This was a fair criticism, but not in recent weeks and even months.
From the way the Red Devils have been playing in the final weeks of the season, it feels like the message from disgruntled fans (and ex-players) has finally pierced Van Gaal’s Rhino-thick skin. Partly because of the exciting young players on show, United have revved up the tempo and French forward Anthony Martial is leading the revival with his direct running at opponents.
Jose Mourinho is not the answer
If United wish to undo the work Van Gaal has put into promoting exciting academy products and altering their style to something approaching attractive, then Mourinho is their man. The former Chelsea manager is a well-known advocate of a defence-first approach, and is also a byword for stifling the ambitions of many an academy product.
That the ‘Special One’ now divides opinion casts a glaring spotlight on his damaged stock. Before his Chelsea implosion, the Portuguese could have arguably walked into any vacant managerial seat in world football. He is tainted now and taking a gamble on his volatile nature is riskier than keeping Van Gaal for just another year.
<strong>All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.</strong>