Fancy a game of “what if?”
Lovely, games are good. So what if Louis van Gaal stayed on for another season?
What? This doesn’t sound like fun. I’m not sure I can take another year of Dutch philosophy. Surely, that can’t happen, can it?
Well, with so many conflicting reports it’s hard to know what to believe. De Telegraaf reported that Van Gaal will be given another big transfer budget this summer, indicating that he’ll see out the third season of his contract. José Mourinho’s camp have seeded the media with stories of their own and Sir Alex Ferguson’s minions have been touting Ryan Giggs’ credentials for the job.
United’s top brass were meant to be more media savvy post-Ferguson. They have a Twitter feed and everything!
And a Sina Weibo account for good measure.
Sina what? Okay so let’s say IF, and it’s a big IF, United qualify for the Champions League and even win the FA Cup will that mean another season of Van Gaal?
That could be the case. It plays into the theory that Van Gaal’s tenure is a bridge for Ryan Giggs to take over.
Ryan Giggs as United boss. Really?
Look at it this way. Ed Woodward, Ferguson and company would look very foolish if Van Gaal saw out his contract and then appointed someone other than Giggs as his successor.
Is this another perceived form of continuity?
From a certain point of view it would be. The grand plan was always for Giggs to take over. However, United’s performances have been so dire under Van Gaal that the ‘coronation’ has been questioned given the Welshman’s association with both the David Moyes error and the Dutchman’s philosophy.
So practically what are the implications if Van Gaal stays on? Surely, he’ll be a lame duck.
Hence the succession plan. Van Gaal was never going to be a viable long-term option, success or not. He was meant to steady the ship and then retire. Lame duck status might be avoided if he starts to delegate more responsibilities to Giggs – the start of a smooth transition.
Will Van Gaal’s ego allow that?
The obvious answer is ‘no’ but it may not be as clear cut as that. When Van Gaal was at Barcelona he had a certain José Mourinho under his wing. The Dutchman allowed his Portuguese apprentice to coach the Catalan side in the Copa Catalunya. Mourinho won the trophy.
What’s the point?
If United really want this succession plan to work then Giggs will need to get his hands dirty. In that sense if Van Gaal is looking facilitate a smooth succession then he could work out a similar arrangement with Giggs as he did with Mourinho. For example, Van Gaal could transfer first team responsibilities to the Welshman for friendlies and even the Capitol One Cup.
There’s a “but” coming…
Yep, after doing his time at Barcelona Mourinho went on to coach Benfica – quite the opening gig – and União de Leiria before going on to bigger and better things.
Ha! But isn’t experience overrated? Look at how Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane are doing.
Perhaps. Giggs as manager of Manchester United is a romantic notion to see, and indeed cutting his chops elsewhere may not prepare him for life in the Old Trafford hot seat. Crucially, unlike Guardiola or even Zidane, Giggs has not really coached a team for any length of time. Guardiola had a stint with Barcelona B, Zidane likewise with Real Madrid Castilla. Giggs hasn’t coached at the equivalent level, which would be the under-21 team, and let’s face it, Warren Joyce is doing fine job.
So, even if Van Gaal stays for the final year of his contract a lot still needs to happen for United to return to stability, let alone success…
Yet, if the past two seasons are anything to go by. Moreover, United do not have a sporting structure to help ease a plan like this into place. Any semblance of sporting continuity was ripped up by Moyes and then Van Gaal. And given the club’s obsession with commercial growth it’s a big question whether the hierarchy has the steel to see through the Van Gaal-Giggs experiment, especially if inconsistent on-field performances hit revenues.
But they’ve stuck with Van Gaal thus far…
Yes, that’s true, but Woodward and the Glazers also sacked Moyes less than 10 months into his six-year contract. It’s almost as if they’re not quite sure what to do.
But what about the rumoured restructuring of the club?
At the moment that has amounted to Nicky Butt’s appointment as head of the youth academy. Whether there will be any further developments remains to be seen, but United doesn’t exactly inspire confidence on that front. The club is wandering down a very precarious path with no discernible sense of direction. It’s not far from the point that any decision the club reaches will be seen as another big gamble.
Okay, so if Van Gaal stays how will that affect the summer transfer window? Nobody’s expecting Zlatan to grace Old Trafford anytime soon…
Quite, Zlatan isn’t Van Gaal’s biggest fan. However, Giggs will be the main selling point. If the Welshman is to take over then potential targets must have the desire to play for him. Giggs’ name is respected across Europe, but will that be enough to lure top footballers? It could be a case again of United overpaying for talent or turning to their go-to agent Jorge Mendes. Repeat the words – ‘marquee signing!’
Won’t another Van Gaal season be good news for Old Trafford’s younger players?
It’s true that Van Gaal has given debuts to a fair number of academy products this season, but a lot from necessity more than strategy. Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah look like they could really make the grade, while Anthony Martial has the potential to become world-class. However, Van Gaal’s predilection for “multi-functional footballers” and placing square pegs in round holes for the sake of the process could do more harm than good.
And what about the Captain’s ‘privileges’?
If Van Gaal stays then it’s a safe bet that Wayne Rooney will remain a key figure, although Van Gaal is more than capable of falling out with anyone. It is worth noting that come the end of the 2016/17 season Rooney will have two years left on his contract and he’ll turn 32 in October 2017. Given Rooney’s decline as a player one can’t help but think that next season could be Rooney’s last at Old Trafford. Van Gaal or not, should the Liverpudlian’s form spiral further downwards, which is more than likely, then he may look for pastures new with United’s blessing.
Let’s imagine that Van Gaal stays and it goes pear-shaped. What then?
Then United’s management must seriously look at how the club is run. Many of United’s problem are systemic and will only be address if there’s a sharp decrease in income. Post-Van Gaal United could be no closer to reestablishing itself as a force in English football let alone European.
And what if United win the league in Van Gaal’s final season?
He’s staying, isn’t he?
So, how could one sum up the potential chaos at Old Trafford this summer, preferably using a video of a popular comic book villain, please?
Here. We. Go.