Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 25th 2016 Contents A41
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BARCELONA---Real Madrid dropped
its first points under coach Zinedine
Zidane in a 1-1 draw at Real Betisyes-
terday, while Atletico Madrid failed
to regain the Spanish league lead from
Barcelona after finishing goalless
against 10-man Sevilla.
Madrid could only muster a second-
half goal by Karim Benzema to cancel
out Alvaro Cejudo s stunner, leaving
it in third-place---four points behind
the pace-setting pair.
Zidane had overseen two lopsided
home wins, but Madrid s slip in Seville
showed he hasn t cured its away ills.
Atletico s stumble left Barcelona ahead
of Atletico on goal difference thanks
to Saturday s 2-1 win at Malaga.
The title-holders will also have a
game in hand after they host Atletico
next weekend in a highly anticipated
meeting between the last two league
champions (See Page 50).
Madrid drops first points under Zidane
LONDON---The fans booing has
become louder at Manchester
United as the team s perform-
ances have become duller.
Through it all, the club s hier-
archy has remained silent about
the setbacks, supporters discon-
tent and increasingly embattled
manager Louis van Gaal.
It s taken an Old Trafford voice
from the trophy-filled recent past
to speak out in response to sup-
porters concerns. Not Alex Fer-
guson, but the chief executive who
worked alongside the manager
who delivered 38 trophies in 26
David Gill, who remains a Unit-
ed director under the shaky lead-
ership of vice chairman Ed Wood-
ward, issued a plea yesterday: "It s
not easy ... it s a difficult process
but we have to stick together."
Gill s pronouncement on BBC
radio followed a 1-0 home loss to
Southampton---the 11th consecu-
tive game in which United failed
to score in the first half of a home
It left United fifth in a league
the club has won a record 20
times, the last occasion being Fer-
guson s 2012-13 swan song. With
United five points from the Cham-
pions League places, the club will
fear being unable to bank tens of
millions of pounds from the UEFA
competition next season.
"We have to work together and
work hard," Gill said. "No one is
going to help us turn it around.
We have to turn it around our-
selves. Everyone is motivated to
Such a downward spiral would
not have been anticipated going
into the season, given that more
than $350 million has been spent
on new players since Van Gaal
took charge in 2014.
"Clearly we all hoped the results
would be better and everyone is
disappointed with that ...
undoubtedly it s been a season of
under-achievement," said Gill,
who is a FIFA vice president.
"Everyone would agree with that
given the investment that s been
It may prove telling that Van
Gaal did not even receive the
dreaded "vote of confidence" from
Gill a day after being heckled by
fans while leaving the pitch.
"I don t think he s found it that
difficult but the sheer competi-
tiveness of English football is there
for everyone to see," Gill said of
Van Gaal, who has previously
coached the Netherlands,
Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
With the football so dour and
lacking dynamism, there s an air
of inevitability that the Dutchman
won t have a third season at Unit-
"We re fans as well as directors
and we don t want booing, we
want cheering," Gill said.
"Manchester United going back
to the 1950s played in a certain
way," he added. "We want attack-
ing football and I am sure that
will be a key part going forward."
A poisonous atmosphere took
hold at Old Trafford after the final
whistle, with supporters from the
Stretford End and South Stand
heckling Van Gaal as he walked
along the touchline before he dis-
appeared down the tunnel.
The message was clear---Van
Gaal is no longer wanted by some
United fans and they are becoming
increasingly unhappy with the
slow, dour football that is often
on display at Old Trafford.
The United manager under-
stands the fans angst, but claims
now is the time for unity, rather
"They are right (to boo). I can-
not deny that," Van Gaal said.
"I have seen the match also and
I cannot deny it but also in better
or for worse, you have to stick
It was not just the fans who
started turning on Van Gaal on
Former United midfielder Bojan
Djordjic broke ranks while on pun-
ditry duty in the MUTV studios
at Old Trafford, describing the
result as "dreadful."
"For so many weeks, the fans
are clapping him off and it just
grows, the frustration, and this
was the final straw," he added.
"The only corner we are turning
is into some dark alley where we
get robbed again."
Djordjic s frustration---and that
of the 70,000 plus United fans
inside Old Trafford---was under-
Daley Blind registered United s
first and only shot on target in
the 13th minute and thereafter the
hosts put on a dull display, reg-
ularly shuffling the ball sideways
and backwards rather than forward.
United fans had seen enough by
the time two desperate long punts
up field went awry and they
responded with loud boos and
chants of "attack, attack, attack."
Van Gaal suggested his players
were struggling to deal with the
demands of playing for such a
He added: "You have to meet
expectation and that expectation
is very high, and that gives a lot
of pressure for the players.
"We are working very hard but
also we have a lot of injuries and
that I cannot change with words.
"It s also a lot of bad luck when
you have five full-backs injured so
you cannot prevent that."
The latest full-back to fall victim
to United s injury curse was Matteo
Darmian, who went off in the sec-
ond half while spitting blood fol-
lowing an aerial collision with
Van Gaal felt the loss of Darmian,
and the withdrawal of the ineffec-
tive Marouane Fellaini at half-time,
left his side vulnerable to aerial
assaults and he was proven right
when debutant Austin headed in
James Ward-Prowse s free-kick
seven minutes after coming off the
"I had the fear because they
could only score from set plays as
they didn t create other chances
and our defence in set plays was
weaker because I changed Fellaini
and had to change Darmian so
every change meant we were weak-
er in set plays," he said.
"That was my fear but I wanted
to win this game also that is why
I changed Cameron Borthwick-
Jackson for Adnan Januzaj. He
could have scored but that is the
risk you take.
"We didn t create so much and
our opponent didn t create so much
so it was more like a 0-0 game but
at the end we have lost."
United are now five points behind
Tottenham in the hunt for Cham-
pions League qualification with 15
matches to go.
Manchester United's manager Louis van Gaal takes to the touchline before the English FA Cup third round soccer
match between Manchester United and Sheffield United at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, on
January 9. AP PHOTO
Tension at Old Trafford
...fans heckle, boo Louis Van Gaal
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