United's Van Gaal on knife-edge
28 December 2015, 10:07
London - Manchester United's besieged
manager Louis van Gaal could see his troubled Old Trafford reign put out of its
misery on Monday with fellow Dutchman Guus Hiddink cast in the role of
United's 2-0 defeat at Stoke City on
Saturday was their fourth loss in succession -- the club's worst run within a
season since 1961 - and reduced Van Gaal to a dead man walking in the eyes of
the British media.
The Dutchman admitted afterwards that he
could not be certain of the United board's support and raised the prospect that
he could choose to leave Old Trafford of his own accord.
"I have said already in former press
conferences that it is not always that the club has to fire or sack me.
Sometimes I do it by myself," he said.
"But the scrutiny is all right for me,
I am used to that."
"A month ago we were first in the
Premier League but we lost important games and now we have to come back in more
difficult situations than last year because last year everyone believed and
there was progression, now there is a fallback and that is different and
everybody is judging also different."
Should United fail to win on Monday, they
will end the year with their lowest points total in 26 years.
Chelsea dispensed with their own manager
last week, Jose Mourinho paying the price for a calamitous start to the season,
and the Portuguese is the favourite to take over at United in the event that
Van Gaal departs.
Hiddink has replaced Mourinho as interim
manager, reprising a role he previously performed in 2009.
The 69-year-old Hiddink began life back at
Stamford Bridge with a 2-2 draw at home to Watford on Saturday that left the
champions two points above the relegation zone in 15th place.
Diego Costa scored twice to earn Chelsea a
point -- book-ending goals from Watford strikers Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo -
but will miss Monday's game through suspension. Loic Remy is expected to
"We will go to Old Trafford. It will
be difficult, but I hope this team will show, in every game, the ambition like
they showed against Watford," Hiddink said. "We are going there for
Second-place Arsenal will hope to get their
title challenge back on track when they host Bournemouth on Monday, less than
48 hours after an embarrassing 4-0 defeat at Southampton.
With leaders Leicester City having lost 1-0
at Liverpool, victory would have sent Arsenal top, but they put in a bafflingly
below-par display that resulted in their heaviest defeat of the campaign.
"These players have fantastic spirit.
We want to respond from the disappointment," said Arsenal manager Arsene
"I trust my players to respond well on
Monday. Bournemouth have played very well recently."
Leicester remained top despite their first
away defeat of the campaign, but on Tuesday face a taxing home game against
third-place Manchester City, who returned to form on Saturday by crushing
Manuel Pellegrini's side will be without
captain Vincent Kompany, who aggravated a calf injury against Sunderland, but
striker Sergio Aguero is likely to start after being rested.
Tottenham Hotspur moved into the top four
on Saturday by beating Norwich City 3-0, Harry Kane scoring twice, and they face
another promoted team on Monday in the form of Watford.
While bottom club Aston Villa - nine points
from safety - and second-bottom Sunderland - four points better off - are at
risk of being cut adrift, just three points separate third-bottom Newcastle United
and 13th-place West Bromwich Albion, who face off at The Hawthorns.