MANCHESTER: Suddenly the ground beneath the feet of Louis Van Gaal is no longer quite as firm as it appeared. Chelsea’s removal of Jose Mourinho, most successful continental manager in the history of the English game, proved that no-one is fire-proof.
If anything, Chelsea’s example appeared to have fuelled the reaction of Manchester United supporters to the latest dismal twist of events at Old Trafford.
The 2-1 defeat by promoted Norwich was United’s sixth game without a win in all competitions, their third successive defeat and added up to their worst run for 11 years, seeing them slip out of the top four.
Both the team in general and Van Gaal in particular were booed off at the final whistle by fans who cannot see any progress since the most lacklustre football United finished up playing under David Moyes two years ago. It was loudest chorus of dissatisfaction heard at Old Trafford for a very long time.
Wayne Rooney returned after injury but United managed only two attempts on target and one of those was Anthony Martial’s 66th minute goal.
Norwich were already leading by two at that stage, thanks to Cameron Jerome and Alex Tettey, and the Canaries hung on to claim their first win at Old Trafford in 26 years. No wonder fans were streamed out of Old Trafford long before the final whistle. In their last four home games United have managed only seven shots on target.
This is not what United are all about and the sum total of it all is giving Van Gaal cause for personal concern.
Asked about his own job security, Van Gaal said: “Yes of course I am worried about that. Belief in a manager is very important and when you lose the games you play, the belief in the manager shall decrease. That’s happening now. I can’t close my eyes to that.
“What you have seen today is what a lack of confidence can do for a team. It was not good enough.”
United were uncertain in defence where Phil Jones is still feeling his way back after injury and Ashley Young, at right back, looked as unhappy as United’s fans. In the absence of suspended Bastian Schweinsteiger, Michael Carrick returned to his favourite anchor role but he too looked slow in pace and thought at times.
As for Rooney, a presentation from Sir Bobby Charlton to mark his 500th game was the only highlight of his – and United’s – afternoon.