Is Louis van Gaal the right man to save Manchester United's season?

With another big game today, those who cherish the club tell The Independent their views on its troubled manager

Ron Atkinson 

(Manchester United manager 1981-86)

Daft as it sounds, I still would not rule out the possibility of Manchester United winning the league. It is so open that any team capable of stringing five wins together has a great chance.  They would back themselves to beat Derby in the FA Cup and they ought to be one of the favourites to win the Europa League. What would a trophy do for the perception of Louis van Gaal at United?

The Liverpool game is a fixture Van Gaal has done exceptionally well in. The win at Anfield last season was United’s best performance of the past three years. And he isn’t the only one suffering in routine fixtures.

The aura has been stripped away from a lot of the big clubs and United are not the only ones who haven’t come to terms with it. Van Gaal is discovering that the English mentality is totally different to what he has experienced in Holland and Germany. There is less emphasis on the technical and far more on power and there is even still an appreciation for the fast-disappearing art of the tackle. At Old Trafford, Van Gaal has relied on tried and tested methods that had worked for him in Europe but which have had nowhere near the same impact in England.

Should Van Gaal be at United in August? If he qualifies for the Champions League and wins a trophy, then yes. If he doesn’t, I don’t think he’d want to stay.

Michael Crick 

(Political editor of Channel 4 and biographer for Sir Alex Ferguson) 

I liken it to living in an occupied country, waiting for liberation day. I wrote in my book than when Ferguson went, United would get through five managers in 10 years. That might be looking a little conservative.

Tuesday night at Newcastle was a welcome change from the norm but you know with Van Gaal that these things never last. Last season we thought he had broken through with wins over Tottenham, Liverpool, Aston Villa and City then United’s season promptly fizzled away at Everton and West Bromwich. 

In retrospect, Ferguson’s achievements look greater than they did at the time and you do wonder what he thinks. He backed the removal of David Moyes because he felt United’s football had become irredeemably dull but compared to what Van Gaal is offering, it looked scintillating. The fact is that Van Gaal has been backed with enormous sums of money, the kind of money that was never made available to Ferguson. 

That money has been abysmally spent. He has signed 13 players and apart from Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera – who were part of deals set up by Moyes – and young Anthony Martial, that money has been squandered. People say who should United sign in January? I don’t want them to sign anyone because, if Van Gaal has anything to do with it, they won’t be any good.

Should Van Gaal be at United in August? No. I don’t want him to be manager tomorrow, let alone in August.

Andy Mitten 

(Editor of Manchester United fanzine United We Stand)

I was excited and intrigued when Louis van Gaal joined United. I liked the idea of him educating Ryan Giggs while Giggs taught him the nuances of the Premier League. I spend a lot of time in Barcelona and had seen the side he built there and interviewed several of his players. Luis Enrique said he had learned more from Van Gaal than any other manager. Xavi was glowing about him. When I spoke to people at PSV Eindhoven about him, they said: “We don’t like him as a person but he will do a good job for you.”

He hasn’t. He told us to judge him in the second season and after 75 games it is not unreasonable to pass that judgement. There were times, like after the win at Liverpool last season, when I could begin to see what he was getting at but this season has been worse in terms of goals, entertainment, everything. So, do you sack him now?

Whether it is out of defiance or because we don’t want to be seen fighting among ourselves, there has been little open dissent against Van Gaal inside Old Trafford but if Van Gaal thinks the silence is a show of support, he is very much mistaken.

Should Van Gaal be at United in August? Only if the football  improves and he wins a trophy.

Andy Goldstein 

(TalkSport presenter; United fan) 

Things are not as bad as people are making out. But for that last-minute equaliser, the Newcastle game would have given everyone what they wanted – plenty of excitement and three points. If we beat Liverpool, I and a lot of other United fans will be going into work with a big smile. If we don’t and we slip down to eighth, the board might feel it has to act to protect the Champions League income.

What I would say is there are a lot of players being played out of position. At Watford in November I counted five. Would Alex Ferguson have had Ruud van Nistelrooy out wide, would Nicky Butt have played centre-half or Ryan Giggs been seen playing at left-back except in an emergency?

The one accusation levelled at Van Gaal that I find totally unfair is that he has spent £250million. United are one of the biggest clubs in the world and they should be spending that kind of money on a regular basis.

Should Van Gaal be at United in August? Call me after the Liverpool game.

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