Manchester: With his side facing a must-win scenario against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium in the English Premier League (EPL) today, embattled Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal cancelled the club’s festive pantomime and instead called his players for a training session yesterday morning, according to British tabloid The Sun.
Manchester United players stretch during a training session at their Aon Training Complex on November 2. Pic/Getty Images
The annual event typically sees the club’s youth players jokingly mock the senior team members over any interesting events which had occurred during the season through skits. The tradition of pantomime was established by Sir Alex Ferguson and infamously witnessed the club’s youth stars mocking Wayne Rooney over a prostitute scandal back in 2010. In fact, it was Van Gaal who brought back the annual tradition after his predecessor David Moyes had scrapped it in 2013.
Skits skittled out
According to an earlier report in The Sun, the youth team players had planned to act out the infamous Wayne Rooney incident where the club captain was knocked out by a punch to the jaw from Stoke City defender Phil Bardsley while they both sparred at his house. Other skits revolved around United legend Paul Scholes’ punditry and Van Gaal’s singing — the manager sang the fan chant ‘Louis van Gaal’s army’ during a press conference in September.
The newspaper quoted a club insider as saying, “The squad has been struggling when it comes to morale but a move like this is only likely to leave them feeling cold.
“It’s strange as last year he let them have two days off and two Christmas parties, but this season there’s no sign of Christmas spirit never mind team spirit.”
It is claimed that the Dutch manager had previously promised to allow his players to stay home for Christmas yesterday, but changed his mind and ordered them to check into their hotel in the afternoon itself, thereby letting his stars spend just a couple of hours with their families on Christmas.
Manchester United are currently fifth in the league, nine points behind leaders Leicester City, having collected two points from their last four league games.
The wretched run of results has cast a shadow over Van Gaal’s future with reports claiming he has been given just two games to save his job. The 64-year-old walked out of his press conference on Wednesday after an extraordinary five-minute rant over questions from the media about his future. His position has been further threatened by Chelsea’s sacking of Jose Mourinho, meaning the Portuguese coach can replace him.
In an interview with MUTV after his walk-out, the Dutchman acknowledged the trip to Stoke was a “must-win game”. “When you have lost three times in a row, then you need a victory. We have focused ourselves to do that, but it is not easy,” he said. “Stoke City have won against Manchester City, for example, and it’s a special ground. It is not easy with a lot of circumstances that are not suitable always to playing good football.”
With Chelsea and Manchester City having lost at the Britannia Stadium this season, Van Gaal’s men will face a daunting task today.