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Van Gaal ‘has 2 games to save his job’ with Mourinho waiting

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Dave Fawbert
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Reports are circulating that under-fire Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has just two games to save his job.

Yet another pitiful loss at home to Norwich on Saturday has increased the pressure on the beleaguered Dutch manager, with the newly-unemployed Jose Mourinho waiting in the wings to take over immediately following his sacking from Chelsea last week.

A perfect storm of circumstances - the team's continued poor form, the dull style of play that Van Gaal has implemented, the sudden availability of one of the best managers in the world, and the fact that many of their other potential alternatives look to be heading elsewhere - has led to this potentially being one of the most important crossroads at Old Trafford for some time.

If they keep faith with Van Gaal, they risk having no viable alternatives come the end of the season should they then decide to replace him: Pep Guardiola is widely believed to be heading to Manchester City at the end of the season, now that he is confirmed to be leaving Bayern Munich at the end of the season, while Carlo Ancelotti has been confirmed to replace him at The Allianz Arena.

Pep Guardiola - leaving Bayern at the end of the season, and a possible alternative for United

For his part, Mourinho, who attended Middlesbrough's 3-0 win against Brighton on Saturday, in support of his former assistant, Boro manager Aitor Karanka, is said to be keen to return to football immediately. His agents CAA football put out a statement on Saturday saying, "He will not be taking a sabbatical, he isn’t tired, he doesn’t need it. He is very positive, and is already looking forward. Because of his love of football, you will see Jose at football grounds working and supporting friends. He will not be attending any high-profile games because he wants to discourage any speculation about his future." (Boro vs Brighton not high profile? The cheek).

Meanwhile, United lie fifth in the table with just 29 points from 17 games and only 8 wins, while they also tumbled out of the Champions League at the group stage. Due to the unpredictable nature of the season so far, they are not out of the title race by any means, but their performance is only one point better than at this point during David Moyes' season in charge - and his side qualified for the Champions' League second round, and had scored six more goals. It is this latter point which is concerning the Old Trafford hierarchy: on Saturday they had just two shots on target and in their last four home matches they have had just seven. This would have been unthinkable during the years of Alex Ferguson, and comes despite Van Gaal spending over £250m - far more money than David Moyes ever had access to.

However, Van Gaal has continually spoken of 'my project', and many at Old Trafford feel he deserves more time to make his methods stick; many of whom also feel David Moyes was ditched too early. Their next two games see them play Stoke at the Britannia Stadium on Boxing Day before then hosting - of course - Chelsea on 28 December.

Failure to win these two matches could see the United board finally lose patience with the Dutchman and move for the Special One.

One more factor complicating matters is that they rejected the chance to take Mourinho when Ferguson retired, in part due to Ferguson believing Moyes was a better fit, but also because his brash attitude and history of upsetting people did not sit well with United's beliefs, alongside a worry - given more credence by his recent woes at Chelsea - that he is not capable of building a long-term successful setup, rather slashing and burning for short-term gain.

However, needs must - and they might decide that simply returning to trophy-winning ways, even if it means upsetting a few people, is desperately needed.

(Images: Rex)

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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