After a turbulent start to the season, Manchester United have moved ominously towards the top of the table and are now in fourth place behind Arsenal.
With no European football at Old Trafford this season, a return to the Champions League was the number one objective for Louis Van Gaal following his summer appointment. Although certain to face stiff competition from the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham in the remaining weeks of the season, it appears that the Dutchman is on schedule.
And yet, there have been increasing signs of dissatisfaction in and around Old Trafford in recent weeks. A number of his summer acquisitions have failed to sparkle despite being assembled at the cost of £150 million. The future of Radamel Falcao is in doubt and Angel Di Maria?s form has dropped alarmingly after a bright start.
Van Gaal has been very frank in admitting that they have not been performing to their best and even went so far as to include other key signings such as Shaw and Blind. If United can grind out the results with some of their players below par, the omens are good for next season. But none of this seems to appease United fans who are questioning Van Gaal?s tactics on a weekly basis.
There has been particular dismay at the role played by Wayne Rooney who has often expressed a wish to play as center forward. Reports have circulated suggesting that United?s players feel ?shackled? and ?confused? by the team tactics. Former player Paul Scholes has been particularly vocal in criticizing the style of play. Van Gaal responded directly to criticism from West Ham coach Sam Allardyce who suggested that United had played ?long-ball football?. He produced a dossier which he claimed proved that Allardyce?s claims were false.
The most recent murmurings from Old Trafford centre on assistant manager Ryan Giggs who enjoyed just four games in charge following the removal of David Moyes. The Welshman is known to wish to branch out on his own at some time in the future and it is not clear whether he will be prepared to live in Van Gaal?s shadow for much longer.
United face holders Arsenal in the quarter-final of the FA Cup on Monday and victory there would see them emerge as possible favorites to lift the trophy. Arch-rivals Liverpool are at home to Blackburn on Sunday.