Members of Manchester United’s first team are believed to have turned on manager Louis van Gaal in the aftermath of the 3-0 defeat by Tottenham after questioning his decision to deploy England midfielder Ashley Young as a lone striker.
Young came off the substitutes’ bench to replace 18-year-old striker Marcus Rashford at half-time after Van Gaal was left unimpressed with the teenager’s contribution, but instead of moving Anthony Martial to his favoured role as the lead attacker and place Young on the left, he left Young up top on his own.
This drew widespread criticism from United plans who felt Van Gaal’s tactics were once again hindering United, and they went on to concede three second-half goals inside six minutes to suffer major blow to their top four hopes.
But it has since emerged in The Sun that the United squad were left deeply unhappy with Van Gaal’s treatment of Rashford, who the Dutchman gave a half-time dressing down in front of his team-mates before replacing him with Young – despite the England international not playing a minute of competitive football since January due to injury.
Van Gaal is reported to have criticised Rashford for drifting wide too often as well as failing to threaten the space behind Spurs defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, although the centre-backs are able to boast being part of the best defence in the Premier League after conceding the fewest goals this season.
The outburst from Van Gaal surprised the rest of the squad, given that Rashford has scored five goals – including a Manchester derby winner against City last month – and is only in the team due to a combination of injury to Wayne Rooney and Van Gaal’s own failure to sign a prolific striker last summer.
The dressing room tension could well be a sign of Van Gaal feeling the pressure ahead of Wednesday’s must-win FA Cup sixth round replay with West Ham, given that defeat will end United’s season in terms of winning silverware and leave them with the pursuit of fourth place to play for.
United are now four points off City following the loss at Spurs, and with the Hammers just a point behind them in the league table, a victory on Wednesday will give the Londoners the momentum to surpass a United side that has again failed to live up to expectations this summer. Speculation is rife that former Chelsea manager Jose Moruinho will replace Van Gaal at the end of the season, and an FA Cup exit and top-four failure combined with a dressing room split will go a long way to condemning Van Gaal’s future at Old Trafford.
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