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United defeat piles pressure on Louis van Gaal

Louis van Gaal's tactic of leaving skipper Wayne Rooney on the bench failed to reinvigorate his Manchester United team. Reuters/Carl Recine

Before the game at Stoke City, the Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal said he had left skipper Wayne Rooney on the bench because playing Ander Herrera was better for tactics.




It was difficult to understand the Dutchman’s strategy 30 minutes into the game at the Britannia Stadium.

United trailed by two goals. The first was the result of a Memphis Depay blunder. The Netherlands international tried to head the ball back to his goalkeeper David de Gea but it was far too weak. Stoke City’s Glenn Johnson pounced on the error and passed the ball to Bojan Krkic who slotted in. The second goal after 25 minutes came from the boot of Marko Arnautovic. It was a 25 metre thunderbolt.

A 2-0 scoreline after half an hour hardly electrified van Gaal’s prospects of survival. That it was the same scoreline after 90 minutes even after the introduction of Rooney in the second half, will probably seal his fate as Manchester United manager.

The 64-year-old was under intense pressure before the match. His side’s exit from the Uefa Champions League and poor Premier League form had raised question marks about his future especially with the Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola announcing that he wanted to leave the German champions at the end of the season.

While Manchester City are thought to be Guardiola’s next destination, pundits have urged United to lobby for Guardiola. Van Gaal has also been forced to watch his back following Chelsea’s dismissal of Jose Mourinho.

The 52-year-old Portuguese was known to be interested in the United job when Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Mourinho was snubbed in favour of David Moyes because of his run-ins with the footballing authorities and his dour brand of winning football.

But after United’s latest setback, even the Old Trafford hierarchy might be persuaded that boring victories are better than a routine of defeats.