Van Gaal getting away with United's great mess
Blaming players publicly and admitting he was outwitted by Monk can't hide serious blunders
In the panic-button climate of the English Premier League, only a handful of managers are granted the precious commodity of time.
Unfortunately for Manchester United, Louis van Gaal is one of them.
Using the cliched David Moyes analogy gets tiring only because it's true.
In the great court of the popular press, the hangman would already be preparing his noose if this was all happening to the Scot.
Van Gaal isn't getting away with murder. But he is getting away with an extraordinary mess.
Avoiding defeat until the 2-1 loss at Swansea yesterday morning (Singapore time) had papered over more cracks than the San Andreas Fault.
The Dutchman is stumbling into one obstacle after another. Some were his fault. Others were the creation of United's credit-card court jester Ed Woodward.
But van Gaal fell into them all, even acknowledging his failings, perhaps under the misguided assumption that his charismatic presence, booming voice and remarkable resume combined to make an impenetrable shield.
His post-match confession that he had been knowingly duped, fooled by Swansea's outstanding young manager Garry Monk defied belief.
In just over a year, van Gaal has suffered three straight defeats by the Welsh wonders, but this one was decided in the dugout.
Monk realised his 4-2-3-1 formation surrendered possession at Old Trafford, so he plotted a change. He even told his players at half-time.
Ten minutes into the second half, he sacrificed Wayne Routledge for the more defensive Ki Sung Yueng, switched to a 4-3-1-2 and a midfield diamond and essentially annexed the centre circle.
The Swans probed the gaps between Luke Shaw and Daley Blind. Both goals came through their right-hand channel.
Perceptive tactical changes occasionally allow smaller clubs to execute a smash-and-grab raid inside a grand fortress. Just ask Crystal Palace.
But van Gaal made not one, but three rookie mistakes, including a social faux pas in front of a microphone that goes against the grain of United's philosophy.
He blamed the players. And so, inadvertently, he blamed himself. He admitted their culpability.
Monk had pulled their trousers down and no one at United, either on the pitch or in the dugout, showed the initiative to pull them back up again and tighten the belt.
So he publicly criticised the players, a long-standing taboo at United, and he essentially recognised a junior manager had outwitted him.
But, most damningly of all, van Gaal had more than half an hour to address Monk's meddling. Two goals slipped in and nothing happened.
Shaw was obviously at fault for bombing forward and leaving space for the Swans to exploit, but where were the instructions from the bench to pull back?
But then, blame-shifting has become a grubby by-product of van Gaal's colourful, but chaotic tenure.
Sergio Romero is no Massimo Taibi, but he's certainly not a Tim Howard either; a decent, reliable, safe pair of hands to hold the fort until a Champions League-challenging custodian comes along.
The Argentinian presents a bench-warming stop-gap for a solid Premier League side, a no-frills goalkeeper unlikely to usurp existing personnel at most other clubs.
Romero is probably not going to trouble the United goalkeepers at either Newcastle or West Ham, so the idea that he is a satisfactory replacement for the best in the competition is ludicrous.
Romero struggled with Swansea's first goal and was obviously at fault for the second, but his manager insisted that the Argentinian had settled the David de Gea "issue", an issue that belonged to chief executive Woodward.
In a single sentence, van Gaal succeeded in looking both naive and cowardly, pointing the finger of blame elsewhere.
It's never been the Manchester United way. It's never been the way for any manager intent on surviving Christmas.
Meanwhile, back at the house of fun, United are reportedly entertaining bids from Bayer Leverkusen for Javier Hernandez.
At the very least, the Mexican should offer a committed, makeshift stand-in for the artisan formerly known as the Prince of Old Trafford.
Against Swansea, Wayne Rooney snatched at shots he once coolly dispatched. He squandered a sitter in the final moments, a frustrated man raging against both the dying light and a daft formation.
Rooney cannot lead the line. Superman has left the building. Watching Clark Kent bumble around the box is a dispiriting experience.
Rooney has now gone 10 Premier League games without scoring - the longest drought since 2003, when he was still at Everton, when he was younger, leaner, quicker and playing in a formation that facilitated his game.
United's captain has been inexplicably set adrift without a compass. And yet, he's in good company.
Despite some excellent pre-season signings, van Gaal has lost his skipper and the league's best goalkeeper to mismanagement. He lost a game to tactical naivety.
And, in the subsequent press conference, he lost the plot.
How much longer is his CV going to be confused for diplomatic immunity?
Van Gaal's resume still holds up. But his relationship with the Red Devils is slowly breaking down.
We were the dominant team for 85 minutes, but we lost it in five minutes. In five minutes, Swansea changed their shape and scored two goals. It is a big lesson for us and we have to adapt much more quickly than we have done.
— Louis van Gaal, on the defeat
You are asking now things what you don’t know, what I don’t know. You think you are smarter than I, but it is not like that.
— Van Gaal storms off a post-match press conference after being asked about transfers
You can ask all the players but you have to wait and see until Manchester United make an announcement, or the club where he is going to make an announcement. Otherwise he stays.
— Van Gaal, on David de Gea’s situation
It is only the second time in his career that Wayne Rooney (above) has gone 10 EPL games without a goal. The previous occasion was between August and December 2003 while at Everton. Rooney’s current EPL goal drought stands at 864 minutes.
Swansea have won four of the last five meetings with Manchester United in all competitions, all by a 2-1 scoreline.
Martial on the verge of move to United
Manchester United are set to sign Monaco's 19-year-old Frenchman Anthony Martial for a fee of £36 million ($78m), despite the forward having scored only a handful of goals.
Martial (below) was given permission to leave France's international base at Clarefontaine yesterday and travel to United ahead of signing a deal.
United boss Louis van Gaal has been tracking the player for some time and is convinced he has enormous potential.
Sources with knowledge of the deal have confirmed to Press Association Sport that a transfer fee of £36m has been agreed between the clubs - United made their move after Monaco failed to qualify for the Champions League group stage last week.
Martial had been called up by France coach Didier Deschamps for his squad to play friendlies against Serbia and Portugal.
A statement on the French Football Federation (FFF) website read: "Anthony Martial requested permission from Didier Deschamps to travel to England to sign a contract with Manchester United.
"Given the exceptional circumstances, the coach has agreed to the request of the player."
Martial is due to return to Clairefontaine this morning, the FFF added.
Martial had signed a new contract with Monaco only in June, but the size of the fee might explain why the club were prepared to sell him.
After he signed the new deal, Monaco vice-president Vadim Vasilyev declared Martial as "untransferable" - Tottenham had also shown interest in the player.
Vasilyev said then: "He was being contacted by some of Europe's biggest clubs, but we wanted to make sure that he continues his development with Monaco.
"What Anthony has been able to achieve at just 19 years of age is impressive, to say the least, but the best is yet to come."
Martial netted nine league goals in Ligue 1 for Monaco last season and has 11 in total.
Although he did not score, he was also impressive in the Champions League against Arsenal.
Martial's arrival looks to coincide with the departure of United's Mexico striker Javier Hernandez, who was pictured by German newspaper Bild arriving at Bayer Leverkusen ahead of a proposed permanent move.
Hernandez, who was on loan at Real Madrid last season, is expected to sign a three-year contract.
Meanwhile, it is understood Borussia Dortmund are preparing to sign United's Belgium midfielder Adnan Januzaj on loan.
West Brom also are in talks with United over a deal for goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard.
Baggies boss Tony Pulis has been in the market for a new goalkeeper all summer and has turned his attention to Lindegaard, after failing with a £5m bid to sign David Marshall from Cardiff.
Lindegaard has a year remaining on his contract at United, but it is understood his move to the Hawthorns would be on a free transfer.
The 31-year-old, who joined United from Norwegian club Aalesund in January 2011 for a £3.5m fee, has found his first-team chances limited, making the last of 29 appearances 16 months ago in a 4-0 victory over Newcastle at St James' Park.
Lindegaard would provide competition for Boaz Myhill, with regular No. 1 Ben Foster not expected back until October as he recovers from a knee injury. - PA Sport.