Dead man walking
Devoid of ideas, United must put Dutchman out of his misery
STOKE CITY 2
(Bojan Krkic 19, Marko Arnautovic 26)
MAN UNITED 0
The time has come for Louis van Gaal and Manchester United to part ways.
That one last job before retirement has proved the Dutchman's undoing as much as it has the Red Devils.
It should never have come to this for either Old Trafford or its beleaguered current steward.
Forget the days of Sir Alex Ferguson - van Gaal's tenure has proved a departure from which even David Moyes would have shuddered at the prospect of overseeing.
Moyes had also presided over a two-goal Boxing Day reversal during his own calamitous United reign.
There were no signs of a similar happy ending to the spirited fightback that played out, at Hull City two years ago, from the unrelenting pragmatism of van Gaal.
The veteran Dutchman had dropped skipper Wayne Rooney to the bench, insisting his game plan was better suited to deploying Ander Herrera.
After another slapstick showing, the question should not be about the method of the 64-year-old's madness but whether such methods even exist any more.
Devoid of ideas and seemingly the knowledge of his strongest possible starting 11, it was not the 2-0 reversal at Stoke City last night which delivered what should prove another nail in van Gaal's coffin, but the manner in which it was played out.
Even by the currently low barometer set by his disastrous and debilitating reign, which appears increasingly to have been little more than an experiment in frittering away £250 million ($524m) in 18 months, this was a fresh nadir.
Few United players emerged from last night's match with little, if any credit from the Britannia Stadium but Daley Blind was a particular exception that epitomised their chaos and carelessness.
Tormented by Xherdan Shaqiri for large parts of the first half, van Gaal's compatriot was dealt the indignity of attempting to stage an improbable fightback with a scuffed cross that flew out of play and culminated in the defender falling on his behind.
In many respects, that summed up his manager's tenure - error-strewn and farcical.
Memphis Depay's poor back pass in the 19th minute set the tone for a catalogue of fatal yet unforced mishaps as it culminated in Bojan Krkic opening the scoring for Stoke City.
Then seven minutes later, Ashley Young's needless handball gave the home side a free-kick which resulted in Marko Arnautovic smashing an unstoppable shot past David de Gea.
Anthony Martial plummeted fresh depths as he led the line in Rooney's absence.
The France international was once hailed as the heir apparent to his captain's throne, but was reduced to a pitiful attempt at simulation.
Rooney himself fared little better following his half-time introduction with another lethargic performance that told the story of his own season as well as that of United.
Contrary to his public assertion, few in the dressing room appear to be fighting for their under-fire manager and, as Jose Mourinho, the man who continues to cast a shadow over his technical area will attest, there is only one way a manager is headed once that happens.
Only a clustered fixture list over the festive period, which brings Chelsea to Old Trafford little over 48 hours after the shambles of United's showing at the Britannia, is likely to delay the inevitable ignominy of van Gaal becoming the club's second manager deposed within three seasons.
Such ruthlessness was and, in some quarters, is still considered unbecoming of United's heritage and legacy.
United's lowest-ever points tally of 29 after 18 English Premier League games suggests that talk of reputations currently counts for very little.
Van Gaal's once glittering managerial CV now lies in smouldering wreckage alongside that of the club once hailed as the greatest in world football.
Both need to be put out of their current misery.
“it’s a horrible run, a horrible feeling, it hurts a lot. What else can i say? it’s hard to take. We’re not playing well enough as a team, as a squad.”
— Man United midfielder Michael Carrick
“Louis van Gaan?”
— Former England captain and BBC pundit Gary Lineker (Gaan means ‘to go’ in Dutch)
“18 months into his reign, and there’s very little change from david Moyes.”
— Former Sunderland midfielder Kevin Kilbane