Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 20th 2016 Contents MANCHESTER---Explaining his team's latest
humiliating loss, Louis van Gaal used an adage to
sum up the beleaguered state of Manchester Unit-
"It is the law of Murphy, I think," the bewildered
Van Gaal said, recalling a saying that means anything
that could go wrong, is going wrong.
A great footballing institution is crumbling before
his eyes. And Van Gaal, one of Europe's most cel-
ebrated and experienced coaches, is at a loss as to
how to fix it.
A 2-1 defeat at little-known FC Midtjylland in
front of fewer than 12,000 fans in the Europa League
on Thursday was perhaps the low point in Van Gaal's
turbulent 20-month tenure at Old Trafford. It sparked
vitriolic abuse from a section of travelling United
supporters and apologies from United's players.
Local paper Manchester Evening News decided to
bare its teeth, taking the bold step of calling for Van
Gaal to be fired on its back page on Friday.
"We have no excuses," United midfielder Michael
Carrick said in a typically honest assessment.
Van Gaal didn't quite agree.
At the heart of the Dutchman's angst was an injury
list that now contains 14 players after goalkeeper
David de Gea hurt his knee in the pre-match warm-
up in Denmark. On paper, a team made up of injured
players --- including De Gea, Wayne Rooney, Bastian
Schweinsteiger, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Matteo
Darmian --- appears stronger than the best team
available to Van Gaal.
But Van Gaal still put out a starting XI packed
with experienced internationals from Spain, France,
the Netherlands, England and Argentina. And it
folded in the second half, with Van Gaal acknowl-
edging his side was outfought and outhustled.
Add FC Midtjylland --- a team formed as recently
as 1999 and with 8,000 followers on Twitter com-
pared to United's seven million --- to the list of so-
called minnows to have conquered United this season.
It also includes Bournemouth, Norwich and Stoke
in the Premier League.
Next up for Van Gaal's sorry bunch is a trip to
central English market town Shrewsbury where the
third-tier team looks to pile on the misery for United
in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday. Then comes
the last-32 second leg against FC Midtjylland in the
Europa League on Thursday before a Premier League
match against Arsenal on Sunday.
It is shaping up to be a make-or-break six days
for Van Gaal and his depleted team. Get eliminated
from the Europa League and then lose to Arsenal,
and United's chances of qualifying for the Champions
League look bleak. United is currently fifth in the
Premier League, six points off the top four with 12
The club fired David Moyes in 2014 when it became
clear that qualifying for the Champions League was
beyond the team, and the same fate could yet befall
The damning statistics are piling up for Van Gaal.
Between October and December, there was the run
of five 0-0 draws in nine games that highlighted the
anaemic nature of United's attacking play under Van
Gaal. Currently, United has the fewest points (41)
and fewest number of goals (33) than ever before at
this stage of a Premier League season.
Exiting the Champions League and the Europa
League at the first hurdle in the same season would
add fresh embarrassment for Van Gaal, who has spent
£375 million over the past 20 months to mould his
Yesterday, Nick Powell --- a midfielder on loan
from United at second-tier Hull --- said he "completely
forgot" to watch the tie against FC Midtjylland. He
was playing a soccer game on his computer instead.
It is hard to imagine a player saying this if Alex
Ferguson was still in charge.
English soccer player suspended,
7 months after drugs ban
SHEFFIELD---A player for third-tier English club
Sheffield United has been suspended, seven months
after he was banned for failing a drugs test.
United made the announcement regarding 24-
year-old attacking midfielder Jose Baxter on Friday,
saying "procedures are being followed and no further
comment will be made until the completion of these
No reason was given for the latest suspension.
United said in May 2015 that Baxter was found to
have traces of a banned substance in his sample after
an out-of-competition drugs test. He was handed
a five-month ban, three of them suspended, by the
English Football Association in July.
Baxter has scored seven goals in 28 matches for
United this season.
Saturday, February 20, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt GuardianUnited lurching from
one humiliation to
another under Van Gaal
South African Kyle Abbott, front, celebrates with team mate Chris Morris as
South Africa wins during the T20 cricket match between South Africa and
England in Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday. AP PHOTO
South Africa clinches last-ball
win over England in 1st T20
CAPE TOWN---South Africa beat
England by three wickets in the first
Twenty20 yesterday, running two off
the last ball and surviving after Reece
Topley missed an easy run out that
would have kept the scores tied and
forced a one-over eliminator.
Instead, South Africa got the 15 runs
it required off the last over against Top-
ley.Chris Morris hit a six and a four, and
needed two off the last delivery for vic-
tory. He hit his shot straight to long-
off, and Joe Root delivered a perfect
throw for Topley at the bowler's end
to run out non-striker Kyle Abbott as
he came back for the second.
Topley dropped the ball to lose the
game for England as Abbott dived full-
length to make his ground.
Allrounder Chris Jordan took 3-23
as England came desperately close to
successfully defending its mediocre
134-8 at Newlands after being put in
South Africa made 135-7 and won
when it looked down and out to lead
the two-match series. Morris again
announced himself as an allrounder of
note with his match-winning 17 from
Both teams are putting together their
final preparations for the World Twen-
ty20 in India next month, where they
will meet again in the group stage. The
loss ended a run of six straight T20
victories for England.
After getting off to a rapid start
through openers Alex Hales (27) and
Jason Roy (15), England's batting fell
away with South Africa legspinner
Imran Tahir equaling his career-best
England's bowling and fielding was
sharp, though, and nearly saved the
game before Topley's nightmare final
South Africa seemed to have made
a mess of its chase when captain Faf
du Plessis (25) was caught on the
boundary by Ben Stokes off Moeen Ali
(2-22). The home team was 98-4 after
16 overs. Rilee Rossouw, David Miller
and David Wiese all fell leaving Morris
and tailender Abbott to get 21 off the
last two overs and 15 off the final over.
Morris clubbed a four over cover off
the second ball from Topley, and then
launched a six over wide long-on next
It came down to the last delivery
and Root, who had taken two good
catches at long-on earlier, set up what
should have been a straightforward run
out chance for Topley at the bowler's
Topley fumbled the ball, and then
smashed his hand into the stumps in
frustration as his teammates held their
heads in disbelief. (AP)
Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal speaks
during a press conference after the team lost to FC
Midtjylland in the Europa League in Herning,
Denmark, on Thursday. AP PHOTO
Juve held 0-0 at Bologna, misses
chance to go 4 points clear
BOLOGNA---Juventus missed the chance to move
four points clear in Serie A and will not be able to
level the record of consecutive wins after it was
held to a goalless draw at Bologna yesterday.
Massimiliano Allegri's team beat Napoli last week-
end to move top and was seeking a 16th consecutive
win, which would have left it one behind Inter Milan's
record set in 2006-07.
Victory would also have given Juventus a significant
advantage ahead of Napoli's match against AC Milan
on Monday. Instead, Napoli can move a point ahead
of Juventus with a win.
"We gave our all on the pitch, maybe with a few
too many errors in the last ball," Juventus defender
Leonardo Bonucci said. "The season is long: we didn't
win the title last week against Napoli and we haven't
lost it now."
Bonucci insisted he and his teammates did not
have one eye on Europe ahead of the resumption of
the Champions League next week and Tuesday's visit
of Bayern Munich.
Juventus did not have a single shot on target all
match, for the first time since 2011.
Bologna had the best chance of the match in the
21st minute when Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi
Buffon parried a Matteo Destro effort from long range
and Godfred Donsah fired the rebound well wide of
the left upright. (AP)
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