Former Manchester United winger Steve Coppell thinks Louis van Gaal can still rescue the club’s season and he has described the forthcoming week as defining.
Off the pace in the Barclays Premier League, six points behind rivals Manchester City who are fourth in the table, the FA Cup and Europa League are United’s only chances of success this season.
In the next four days they travel to League One strugglers Shrewsbury in the fifth round of the FA Cup before trying to overturn a first leg deficit in Europe against FC Midtjylland at Old Trafford, having been beaten 2-1 in Denmark.
That loss on Thursday night, to a team two months into a mid-season break, was the latest damaging incident for Van Gaal, whose future as United manager looks increasingly uncomfortable by the match.
Coppell, a United player between 1975 and 1983, expects United to win both games and does not expect the club to get rid of him even if they fail to do so.
“It’s easy to criticise and I don’t want to be jumping on any kind of bandwagon of laying out all his faults,” Coppell told BBC Radio Five Live show Sportsweek.
“He’s a man of quality and a man who has achieved success and at the moment this is a defining week – two good results and everyone will be looking forward, two bad results and everyone, again, will be questioning what he’s done.
“Fourteen injuries, you have to give him time. I think they’d have to lose both (for Van Gaal to be sacked). I look at both those games and United should win them both and I really think they will, I really believe they will win both games. You’d have to question it if they don’t.
“Has he had his day? This season is still defining, he could win the Europa League and FA Cup and everyone would say why on earth did we doubt him. The challenge is still there before him and he will be very aware of that.
“He is still in a situation where he can still salvage the season.”
A major criticism of Van Gaal this season, apart from results, has been United’s style of play, with the team being branded dull and boring to watch and devoid of the attacking flair synonymous with the club.
Coppell thinks recruitment could be partly responsible and the 60-year-old former Crystal Palace and Reading boss questioned whether Van Gaal has been in sole control of decisions on new signings.
“The football has been dull, to be honest,” said Coppell. ” The results have been sketchy at best and there is no consistency.
“When Louis van Gaal came in he was talking an awful lot about the philosophy, but as yet I don’t think anyone has been able to distinguish the philosophy.
“The style of play at United has always been with wingers, this is a contrast. It’s a mantra of possession at all costs, which doesn’t seem to have a purpose.
“Forever as a manager you always complain about not having the resources. At Manchester United you have the resources. You have to question how the team has been laid out and you have to question to some extent the recruitment over the past couple of years.
“Has the manager, be it Louis van Gaal or David Moyes, been in charge of the recruitment? Are there influences from elsewhere.
“I personally think United have recruited well for the future, but that doesn’t help them at the moment.”