Photo: Louis van Gaal poses with the FA Cup he won with Manchester United on Saturday. The Dutchman was fired two days later after the club failed to secure Champions League football for next season. (Getty Images).
Despite securing the FA Cup after twelve long years of waiting at Manchester United, Louis van Gaal was shown the exit door by Chief Executive Ed Woodward just two days after glory at Wembley. The Dutch master tactician brought some joy to the fans across the globe but his failure to secure Champions League football next season proved to be his downfall. Highly rated for his football knowledge by Woodward, van Gaal failed to meet his target and like David Moyes his fate was sealed after Manchester City secured fourth spot away at Swansea City.
The retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson rocked the entire club and his successor, David Moyes failed to stabilize the ship. With his experienced at other big European clubs namely Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the 64-year-old Dutchman was quite a catch, especially after his run to a third place finish at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with the Netherlands. Signing a three-year-deal and appointing club legend Ryan Giggs as his assistant, it seemed to be a perfect fit for the Red Devils, however it all ended in tears.
After a difficult first season and securing Champions League football, things seemed to be moving in the right direction for van Gaal and his team, however questions over his team's style of play came up very quickly. The Dutchman himself admitted that skipper Wayne Rooney and midfielder Michael Carrick spoke to him about his style and also pleading for changes as the dressing room was ‘flat.’ There were several reports that his players were unhappy with his management style as well as his style of play which was dubbed ‘boring’ by club legend Paul Scholes.
Dominating possession in the midfield area but failing to get in behind or penetrate the defense was very much a normal day for Man United under Louis van Gaal. His team was very much slow and lethargic on many occasions as well as being predictable. The lack of goals made it even worse as the supporters had nothing to get excited about and Old Trafford with over 75000 fans each match day could become a bit silent. By mid April, United had failed to score in the first half of games on 22 occasions from their 49 matches, a testimony of how laboured, predictable and boring they had become. The fans vented their frustration on several occasions with chants of ‘attack, attack, attack’ while the team only seemed interested in retaining possession than scoring.
With the pressure mounting and doubts starting to creep in over his future, the Dutch tactician blamed the media and Scholes for trying to make him lose his job. There were more questions than answers in his press conferences as concerns were raised over the utilization of midfielder Ander Herrera as well as his handling of Dutch starlet Memphis Depay. His man-management skills have always been under scrutiny and the continuous use of players out of their normal position didn’t help his cause either.
Despite all the distractions from every corner of the football world, the club’s board stood by their manager because he was in the hunt for Champions League football. As long as there was the possibility of finishing in the top four, Woodward was very keen to keep him at the helm, especially with a huge payout the Dutch master would receive if he got the sack. With two games remaining in the season and maximum points required, the Red Devils had their destiny in their own hands. However, their boss failed to inspire the team to secure maximum points and from then the writing was on the wall.
With the FA Cup final still to play, rumours filtered through very quickly that United had contacted former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho to become the new manager. The reports got a lot of attention as it seemed there was some form of consistency from Woodward with Moyes sacked after it was confirmed the club had failed in its Champions League bid. After celebrating the first trophy in the post Sir Alex era, it seemed inevitable that van Gaal was gone despite the players denying having any knowledge that the manager would be replaced. Van Gaal’s reign at Old Trafford was then confirmed just two days after celebrations at Wembley and his replacements seems to be none other than the 'Special One' himself, Jose Mourinho.