Previous
Marseille
Lille
2
1
FT
Game Details
Newcastle United
Sunderland
0
1
FT
Game Details
Liverpool
Arsenal
2
2
FT
Game Details
SC Freiburg
Hannover 96
2
2
FT
Game Details
Internazionale
Lazio
7:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Athletic Bilbao
Atletico Madrid
8:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Next

Manchester United

Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
Read
Mark Payne Manchester Utd  By Mark Payne

With Man United on the slide, Van Gaal must start getting results

The ESPN FC guys answer your questions following United's shocking loss to MK Dons and analyse what the future will hold for Louis van Gaal and his team.

It doesn't get much worse than this. MK Dons trail Fleetwood Town and Peterborough United in League One at the moment. Though Manchester United fans thought they had reached rock bottom against Sunderland, Liverpool and Manchester City last season, they have found a deeper chasm and performances have to pick up now. Louis van Gaal must start getting results.

United's new manager has a lot of credit in the bank, certainly much more than his predecessor David Moyes did. There is also precedent for his clubs starting slowly before going on to achieve glory. Barcelona and Bayern both suffered during the early days of his reign; both won league titles.

It pays to note, however, that the Premier League is significantly more competitive than La Liga or the Bundesliga. If United do not start getting points on the board, their season could be over before Guy Fawkes night. They are already out of one competition, and their chances for glory this season are disappearing faster than a Mancunian summer.

With yet another low point for Man United, the time is now for Louis van Gaal to start delivering on his promises.

Some of the older members of Old Trafford's congregation are bracing themselves for the worst. They remember the back-heel from Denis Law that effectively condemned United to relegation six years after they were European champions. It has been six years since that night in Moscow now; if Danny Welbeck signs for Manchester City, the men in red may feel the gods actually are against them.

While it would be unfair on Van Gaal to start drawing comparisons between him and United's manager of the time, Tommy Docherty, there are a couple of similarities. Both were headstrong, outspoken and hell-bent on getting their own way. At least Van Gaal was willing to admit that his tactical introductions are not working so far in the aftermath of this result.

There are horror shows from the recent past that sent shivers down the spine of the club in a similar fashion. The 3-0 defeat by York City at Old Trafford in 1995 was woeful, but Ryan Giggs and David Beckham were in the side that night. The club recovered to win the double that season. Even more recently, United lost 2-0 to Coventry City in the same competition in 2007. By the end of that campaign, the players were drinking champagne in Moscow.

MK Dons 4-0 Man United

- John Brewin: Van Gaal bullish despite defeat
- Iain Macintosh: A test of faith
- Musa Okwonga: United's problems laid bare
- Extra Time: The future of Man United
- FC TV Debate: Moyes vs. Van Gaal

Those two fixtures, and last night's result, all came in the country's derided "third cup" competition, and each one saw a much-changed side. Sir Alex Ferguson made 11 changes for the Coventry game; LVG made 10 for the match in Milton Keynes. Perhaps even more crucially, last night United fielded several players who know their manager no longer wants them. Shinji Kagawa, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck have all been told they are surplus to requirements.

Unfortunately for all, because United have a preposterous number of injuries, the manager had to play them. Of course they weren't going to find the motivation to play well. And who can blame them for wanting to show up the man who is driving them out of the club?

At present there is not even the slightest glimmer of hope to be found in the team's performances on the pitch. Any and all reasons Manchester United's fans have for optimism is to be found in theory and historical musings. They have barely strung together a sequence of passes all season.

Several players versus MK Dons, including Javier Hernandez, were understandably lacking in motivation.

In his early days at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers described the job as trying to build an aeroplane while it is flying. Van Gaal may be able to sympathise with that sentiment at the moment but he must also be aware of the fact he is the man who remarked to his new employer, "Congratulations on hiring the best coach in the world."

It not open to debate whether Van Gaal is a truly great coach. He is. But he also needs to get results. Being beaten 4-0 by a team 44 places beneath you in the football league is tough to swallow. It doesn't matter how many times you break the British transfer record if your team doesn't get results.

While Van Gaal is not the cause of United's current failings, he needs to start proving that he is the solution to their ills. Whether it is via the use of a hairdryer or a power drill, somebody needs to get those players playing again. At the moment, Manchester United are a laughing stock.

Follow Mark on Twitter.

Mark Payne

Mark Payne has been ESPN's Manchester United correspondent since 2008 and writes about football for a variety of media outlets. He is the author of "Fergie's Last Stand," now available in paperback. You can follow him on Twitter @Markjpayne.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.