Tuesday 24 May 2016

Games That Cost Louis Van Gaal His Job

From last season's cup disappointments to the defeats that shook belief in the manager this term, there have been a number of key moments that have cost Van Gaal. Here we pick out 15 of the most significant results that have led to the Dutchman's departure from Old Trafford…

MK Dons 4-0 Man Utd, Capital One Cup - August 26 2014
In only Van Gaal's third match in charge, United suffered one of their most humiliating defeats in decades at the hands of MK Dons. Benik Afobe and Will Grigg scored twice each for the League One side, with United's second string XI failing to muster a single shot on target until the 72nd minute.   The Capital One Cup was low on United's list of priorities, but the defeat dented morale and prolonged a poor start under the Dutchman. His post-match comments hardly seemed befitting of a Manchester United manager, either.

Man Utd 1-2 Arsenal, FA Cup - March 9 2015
United had won their two previous games going into this FA Cup quarter-final and would go on to win their next four too. But this result ended any realistic hopes that Van Gaal had of winning a trophy in his first season in charge. It was a defeat made all the more unfortunate for the United manager given the identity of the scorer of Arsenal's winning goal.
The decision to allow a popular Manchester-born player to leave the club never sat well and this added to the discomfort. Arsenal went on to win the FA Cup.

Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd, Premier League - April 18 2015
United went into this one having won six Premier League games on the bounce and while their title chances were slim at best, Van Gaal wasn't afraid to talk them up. In fairness, victory at Stamford Bridge in April would have closed the gap on the league leaders to just five points with United appearing to have the more straightforward run-in.
Although the visitors were the dominant team, having more than 70 per cent of the possession, it was Chelsea that got the 1-0 win thanks to Eden Hazard's goal. In hindsight, this seems to have curtailed any momentum Van Gaal was building - they lost 3-0 at Everton next time out and stumbled through to the end of the season.

Arsenal 3-0 Man Utd, Premier League - October 4 2015
There was growing optimism at United given that they went into the weekend top of the Premier League, but the manner in which they were dismantled by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium was alarming. Two goals down inside seven minutes, the third went in on the 20-minute mark and there was to be no way back. It was an emphatic beating and easy to interpret it as a tactical error. The lack of mobility in United's midfield had been flagged up before kick-off with Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger paired together. The German looked to press high despite Morgan Schneiderlin seeming better suited to the role.

Man Utd 0-0 Middlesbrough, Capital One Cup - October 28 2015
After two seasons without a major trophy, United were not in a position to ignore the Capital One Cup. In fact, David Moyes probably still regrets the late goal and subsequent penalty shoot-out defeat in a semi-final against Sunderland that denied him a trip to Wembley. Van Gaal didn't even get that far, eliminated by lower-league opposition for a second successive season.
The penalty defeat to Middlesbrough wasn't as emphatic as the 4-0 loss to MK Dons but, in its own way, it was just as desperate. Fortunate to get away with Daley Blind's own goal, which was pulled back for an infringement, Jesse Lingard later hit a post and Marouane Fellaini twice went close but there was no breakthrough. Carrick, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young all missed in the shoot-out.

Man Utd 0-0 PSV, Champions League - November 25 2015
United went into the PSV group-stage return game on a three-game winning streak having conceded only once in six games. Defensive solidity was now being banked upon but there were still concerns over creativity - concerns that were rammed home after another uninspiring performance in front of an increasingly disgruntled Old Trafford crowd. Knowing a win would take them through to the knockout stages with a game to spare, United could not find a goal - enduring a fourth goalless draw in seven games. Sir Alex Ferguson hadn't had one in his last 116 games in charge. Lingard fired the best chance over the bar as United had 61 per cent of the ball to no avail. It would prove significant when United went to Germany in their final game.

Wolfsburg 3-2 Man Utd, Champions League - December 8 2015
The result at home to PSV meant United knew they would need a win in Wolfsburg as long as the Dutch side got the result they needed against CSKA Moscow. There were moments - albeit fleeting ones - where that looked a possibility. Anthony Martial gave them an early lead but they held on for only three minutes before going behind soon after.
An 82nd-minute Wolfsburg own goal put United level once again and in with a chance, but goals in Eindhoven and a winner by Vieirinha ended their Champions League campaign. It was a huge disappointment that would have had the Manchester United board getting particularly twitchy with their hopes of getting back into the competition through the Premier League also in the balance.

Bournemouth 2-1 Man Utd, Premier League - December 12 2015
Newly-promoted Bournemouth added to Van Gaal's growing troubles with this win. And yet, it was one that the home side admitted they were confident of after seeing the United team. Of a back-four of Guillermo Varela, Paddy McNair, Daley Blind and Cameron Borthwick-Johnson, Cherries striker Glenn Murray said: When you see a back four like that, you almost have to fancy your chances. That defence formed part of United's sixth-youngest line-up in Premier League history and the youngest of Van Gaal's reign. As a result, perhaps it wasn't a huge surprise that the team conceded from two corners. Despite the injuries, it raised further questions over the manager's squad-building and the direction in which the club was heading. They were slipping out of the title race.

Man Utd 1-2 Norwich, Premier League - December 19 2015
Van Gaal had a rather more experienced defence at his disposal for the visit of Norwich and there was hope that this would bring a return to form, but it proved anything but as United struggled once more. Another 2-1 defeat was a second in a row against a newly-promoted side and saw United go four Premier League games without a win for the first time since the days of Moyes.
The performance was a shambles defensively with Ashley Young and Chris Smalling culpable for Cameron Jerome's opener, before Rooney lost it near the halfway line for Alex Tettey to run through for the second. United mustered only two shots on target so couldn't have won even if both had gone in and the chants of Jose Mourinho from both sets of fans seemed to sum up the mess Van Gaal was in.

Stoke 2-0 Man Utd, Premier League - December 26 2015
There was no Christmas cheer for Van Gaal at Stoke, either, as his side crumpled to a fourth-straight defeat. The Dutchman had dropped out-of-form captain Wayne Rooney from his starting line-up but was forced to throw the England striker on in desperation at half-time, with United trailing 2-0.
A poor header back to David de Gea from Memphis Depay had allowed Bojan Krkic to open the scoring before Marko Arnautovic doubled the advantage. It could have been worse for the visitors - Arnautovic wasted a one-on-one chance in the second half - and after the game, Van Gaal said: "It is not always the club that has to fire or sack me, sometimes I do that by myself," sparking speculation he would resign.

Sunderland 2-1 Man Utd, Premier League - February 13 2016
A much-improved performance in a 3-0 win over Stoke seemed the perfect riposte to news Pep Guardiola would be joining United's neighbours Manchester City in the summer, and a draw at Chelsea - where the Londoners snatched a point with a last-gasp goal - hinted at progression. But those results were to prove another false dawn when United fell to Premier League relegation strugglers Sunderland.
Amid media speculation Jose Mourinho was being primed to takeover, a David de Gea own goal handed the Black Cats their first win over Manchester United at home in the Premier League. Now six points off the top four, Van Gaal accepted it would be "very difficult" for his side to make the Champions League qualifying spaces.

Midtjylland 2-1 Man Utd, Europa League - February 18 2016
In the build-up to Manchester United's round-of-32 Europa League tie with FC Midtjylland, Van Gaal had said winning the competition was the club's "best route" to Champions League football next season. However, there were few tipping them to lift the trophy after a performance in Denmark severely short on quality. Memphis Depay had put the visitors ahead but they struggled to assert themselves on their hosts for long periods - and Midtjylland hadn't played a competitive game for over two months.
Instead, it was United making the mistakes, wasting chances and misplacing passes and the Danish champions deservedly fought back to grab a first-leg advantage. In truth, they could have won by more.

Liverpool 2-0 Man Utd, Europa League - March 10, 2016
United were far better in their second-leg with Midtjylland and a 5-1 win at Old Trafford set up a last-16 tie with Liverpool - the first European meeting between the two rivals. However, it was Liverpool who rose to the occasion, dominating the visitors at Anfield and taking a commanding 2-0 advantage into the second leg. In truth, Liverpool's lead should have been far greater; only the brilliance of De Gea kept United in the contest. The Spanish shot-stopper was forced into six saves, while United's forwards mustered just one shot on target in the whole game.

West Ham 3-2 Man Utd - May 10, 2016
United's top-four hopes were suddenly back in their own hands after Manchester City slipped up at Southampton before being held to a draw by Arsenal. Victories in their final two Premier League games of the season against West Ham and Bournemouth would have guaranteed United Champions League football. But they blew their chance.
West Ham, in their final game at Upton Park, were fired up and stormed into the lead through Diafra Sakho. But a double from Anthony Martial turned the game around. United's lead lasted barely four minutes. Michail Antonio levelled before Winston Reid headed in a dramatic winner.

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