British tabloids manufacture narratives to sack managers

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Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United are now winless in eight games in all competitions. For the Red Devils, this is a dry spell of historic proportions. But van Gaal appears to retain the support of Manchester United Chief Executive Ed Woodward, the club’s board and luminaries such as Paul Scholes.

The reaction following Manchester United’s 0-0 draw with Chelsea on Monday night from the Dutch manager was pretty straightforward.

“Then I read things in the press. They are lies, not based on facts. They are the reasons I walk away in a press conference and not angrily. No, I walk with quietness because I want to make my point.”

Van Gaal has every right to be unhappy. The media frenzy has made it difficult for the manager and his players to focus on the job at hand during this, the busiest period of the season. Even more telling, the media frenzy hasn’t stopped even though it’s fairly clear at this point in time that the widespread initial reporting of an ultimatum for van Gaal was well off the mark.

This season, the media has been unrelenting in calling for sackings and managerial changes at England’s most visible clubs. Brendan Rodgers did not even make it to the second international break, as Liverpool’s results — after just a handful of matches — were deemed not good enough. A feeding frenzy over Rodgers’ position gave way to an early sacking – remarkably early especially when considering the large sums of cash the Reds had spent in the summer transfer window and some of the injury woes the club had suffered in August and September.

Next, the attention turned to Chelsea where Jose Mourinho had committed multiple sackable offenses. Week after week, we read in the British papers that Mourinho was one bad result away from getting the sack. Some more experienced Chelsea media hands like Gabriele Marcotti rightly poured cold water on these suggestions. Week after week, Marcotti indicated Mourinho would not be judged until December. He was right, but many of his UK-based media colleagues did not listen.

Once Mourinho did get the sack, and his very controversial comments were no longer readily available for print and airing, Fleet Street turned its attention to van Gaal who has been struggling at United. We heard time and again about the Red Devils needing one negative result for van Gaal to be replaced by Mourinho, and some writers even indicated the change was imminent.

What transpired, instead, was a media looking for a story and feeding off speculation from other outlets. But what seems apparent right now is that Manchester United, a club with a long history of stability, isn’t going to dump van Gaal on a whim. He might walk away but if he doesn’t, the chances of him being sacked during this festive period are minimal. Yet, the stories continue to circulate with alarming regularity and a sense of finality.

SEE MORE: Why Jose Mourinho is the absolute wrong choice for Manchester United

Truth be told, Manchester United, unlike Chelsea under Mourinho this season, don’t look a bad side. While the aesthetics of the play can be critiqued, van Gaal has the side well organized and they keep the ball in central midfield better than just about any team in the division. While Chelsea has multiple personnel issues and players that had very clearly had enough of Mourinho’s mind games, button-pushing, media tirades and victimization complex, Manchester United are simply a good goal scorer away from competing for a spot in the top three.

It can be pointed out that van Gaal let Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez leave this summer without buying comparable replacements. Hernandez’s goalscoring record for Bayer Leverkusen both in the Bundesliga and in European competitions certainly makes van Gaal’s decision justifiably look poor, but the elements for Manchester United to be successful are there. Assuming Jose Mourinho with his unique brand of narcissism whose style does not compliment a club of Manchester United’s values, could suddenly trigger a reaction from the players was always short-sighted.

Other clubs who made massive summer signings and started poorly have been allowed to stabilize without the feeding frenzy from the media. Had the media hounded Mark Hughes whose Stoke City beat Manchester United decisively on Boxing Day in a similar fashion, he very well might be out of work. Instead, Hughes — whose extravagant summer spending on cosmopolitan footballers from the continent had the Potters dubbed as Stokealona — was given time and now his team sits in a good position to make a run at a European place. The same can be said for Watford’s manager Quique Sanchez Flores who had to meld a team with 23 different nationalities quickly. Early results were worrying but Watford has more than come good and like Stoke they are in a position to potentially make a run at a European position.

Another issue driving the van Gaal frenzy is the continued obsession with Mourinho in the English press. One wonders how the media will react if Mourinho is forced to return to Spain, Portugal or Italy with no prospect of an English return. Perhaps they could just get on with their jobs then? For van Gaal, whether or not he should be sacked will be determined by the Manchester United board, not a trial by Fleet Street. It’s about time the press realized that and backed off these continued stories of “ultimatums” and “one game to save his job.”

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2 Comments

  1. sucka99 December 30, 2015
  2. iancransonsknees December 30, 2015

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