Monday, 15 February 2016

Louis Van Gaal Cuts Resigned Figure As Khazri Sparkles For Sunderland

Sunderland 2 Manchester United 1

Chastened, resigned, humbled even, Louis van Gaal cut a somehow diminished figure as he answered questions about his team’s latest setback.
Louis Van Gaal cuts resigned figure as Khazri sparkles for Sunderland
Whether or not José Mourinho is to succeed him as manager of Manchester United, a coach who once revelled in being the Pep Guardiola of his day appears to accept the end-game has begun. Gone was the defiance, the bristling in the face of journalistic inquiries and, perhaps most startlingly, the old antipathy towards Sam Allardyce.

After agreeing that, yes, it would be extremely difficult for United to finish in the top four, Van Gaal suggested their best route back into the Champions League would be by winning the Europa League. But there was a caveat. The standard of football in Europe’s secondary competition is high, he cautioned, and lifting the trophy is anything but a foregone conclusion.
Outrageous notion

Last season he had taken offence when Allardyce, then in charge of West Ham, accused United of deploying long balls and subsequently produced diagrams intended to debunk that outrageous notion. Now, Van Gaal was praising an old foe, lauding the controlled aggression, stellar set-piece execution and accurate long-ball delivery of this relegation-threatened Sunderland side before acknowledging United were falling short of minimal expectations.

“The top four will be very difficult now,” he said. “You cannot close your eyes to that. Everybody’s very sad. We couldn’t cope with Sunderland’s aggression and set pieces. We didn’t deliver and we feel disappointed and we feel sad. You cannot close your eyes from the top four being a minimum requirement.”

Van Gaal looked tired. He seemed in need of some sun on his back and heat in his bones. Instead he must head to central Denmark where United play the first leg of their last-32 tie against Midtjylland on Thursday.

In contrast, Sunderland are bound for the bling and bright blue skies of Dubai, with Allardyce now confident the restorative properties of the Arabian sun will be transposed into relegation-averting points.

After succeeding Dick Advocaat in October, he initially struggled to make the desired impact on Wearside but appears to have shopped very well in January. Here the outstanding Wahbi Khazri a Tunisia playmaker signed for £9 million from Bordeaux, scored the opener courtesy of a curling, thoroughly deceptive, 30-yard free-kick and then delivered the corner from which Lamine Kone’s header forced David de Gea into an own goal.

Although Anthony Martial registered a fine, delicately dinked and tightly angled equaliser, the excellence of Kone – a £5 million purchase from Lorient – alongside Ireland’s John O’Shea ensured Vito Mannone remained well protected.

Novice

Despite United enjoying a period of first-half dominance, their passing was too slow and complicated to inflict serious damage on hosts who sensibly piled pressure on Van Gaal’s novice full backs, Donald Love – on after Matteo Darmian dislocated a shoulder – and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.

With Yann M’Vila increasingly showing off his influential central-midfield poise, Sunderland were deserved winners.

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