Louis van Gaal was booed by the Manchester United crowd as he tried to thank Old Trafford for its support this season. The Dutchman addressed the crowd following the end of United’s last game of the season against Bournemouth. Manchester United’s 3-1 victory sealed European football next season with a fifth placed finish in the league, but their inferior goal difference meant they missed out on Champions League qualification to rivals Manchester City.
The result was only good enough to secure fifth-place in the league and, despite an FA Cup final against Crystal Palace on Saturday, speculation over Van Gaal’s future is rife.
One area where Van Gaal’s side did excel was in defence. United finished with the joint-best record in the Premier League after conceding just 35 times – the same number as Tottenham. United also recorded the joint-most clean sheets (18, tied with Arsenal) and goalkeeper David de Gea came second in the Golden Glove standings behind the Gunners’ Petr Cech.
However, winning the FA Cup shouldn’t save Van Gaal after a season of dire football and wretched results culminated in failure to qualify for the Champions League for the second time in the three seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure.
For all of Van Gaal’s failings — and there have been many — he at least tends to get results in big games against the club’s hated rivals. United picked up 10 points of a possible 12 from Manchester City and Liverpool, as well as wins against Arsenal and Tottenham.
Against all odds, United beat Arsenal 3-2 in February with a hugely understrength squad and a bench made up of academy players. At that point, Arsenal were probably the title favourites. The 3-1 home win over Liverpool on Sept. 12 was great, with Anthony Martial announcing himself to the Premier League with a debut goal, as was the victory at Anfield in January, with Wayne Rooney grabbing all three points with a late, scrappy finish.
The best of these moments, though, was Marcus Rashford’s goal in the 1-0 win at Manchester City on March 20. For a local lad, particularly one with just a handful of games under his belt, to score the winner on derby day was incredible.
Another of those would have to be David De Gea. He is the obvious standout performer, and he has been consistently great all season. Who knows where United would be without him? De Gea became the first player to win the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award on three occasions, which arguably says as much about this current squad as it does about him.
The star man is Martial, though. Not many United fans had heard of him at the start of the season, but he has gone on to score 17 goals, which is a pretty good return for a player who turned only 20 halfway through the campaign. His most important goals were against Liverpool in his debut and the injury time winner against Everton to put United through to the FA Cup final.
The fans are hoping to win the FA Cup and, after that, for a new manager to be appointed for the start of next season.
Something has to change, and it has to happen quickly, before this transitional period becomes a deep-rooted decline. The football has been abysmal this season, which made even some of the victories fairly joyless, and that can’t go on any longer. Van Gaal’s failure to secure a top-four finish surely means the club has no choice but to dismiss him.