Manchester United lost again on Saturday – in case you didn’t notice.
And this latest loss surely is yet another hammer in the coffin marked, ‘Man United’s Champions League Hopes’.
Louis van Gaal’s side are now six points shy of the top four, and 12 points off Leicester in first. The phrase ‘How the mighty have fallen’ seems fitting at this point.
As if the result wasn’t bad enough, the reality is that United fully deserved their loss at the Stadium of Light.
They were bettered in pretty much every department by a Sunderland side fighting for their lives, and for a team that has millions and millions of pounds spent on it over the last couple of years, it was yet another embarrassing afternoon – of which there have been many during Louis van Gaal’s tenure.
The question is: why is he still there?
Obviously there has been speculation about Jose Mourinho replacing the Dutchman in the summer; a suggestion that the United hierarchy have not denied and one that Louis van Gaal has denied, but the reality is that whilst van Gaal seems set to leave in a few months, it seems clear that his continued presence at Old Trafford is having significant and negative effects on the playing staff at the club.
No one ever wants a man to lose his job, but to me, looking at United from the outside in, it would seem the lesser of two evils.
Whichever way you dissect it, van Gaal has failed.
He was the big-boy manager, the one with the massive reputation, the one with knowledge of playing football in Europe, the one with the much vaunted philosophy.
But this season, his team have continually looked like a mid-table side, and when you’ve been entrusted with a budget of hundreds of millions of pounds, you’re not expected to produce a side so lacking in quality.
It appears that there is little to gain by keeping van Gaal in his job until the summer. The Dutchman has already pretty much solidified a season outside of the Champions League for United, and if his side continues to phone in performances like this, the Red Devils could slip even further down the table.
For a club with an image to uphold and a global brand to maintain, Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United simply aren’t good enough.
It seems likely that United chief executive Ed Woodward is merely waiting until the end of the season to pull the trigger, and on one level you can understand that.
After all, another manager being sacked unceremoniously in such close proximity to David Moyes would not reflect well on the club.
But on another level, one wonders how much damage United’s current form is doing to their chances of getting new players in this summer.
Were they to wave goodbye to van Gaal this week and install Mourinho for the last 12 games, it seems likely that prospective recruits would have an opportunity to see what United will be like under the Portuguese and have more confidence in making the move to Old Trafford.
Whatever happens, van Gaal looks to be on his way out. How that happens over the next few months is very much up for debate, but what Woodward and United seem to have decided to do so far is harming the club more than necessary.