Cape Town - Manchester United are set to endure another trophy-less season, and possible Champions League exclusion, and manager Louis van Gaal is to blame for lack of success.
The 63-year-old former Ajax, Barclona, Bayern Munich and Netherlands coach was tasked with one job - return Manchester United to Champions League football and begin the overhaul of a comparatively weak squad.
Van Gaal arrived at Manchester United on the back of a third-placed finish with the Dutch national side at the Soccer World Cup in Brazil, a very good result considering the strength of his squad. The Dutch mentor's CV includes La Liga titles, Eredivise titles and a Bundesliga title and he was expected to restore the side to their lofty heights.
However, the Dutchman has taken the Red Devils on a roller-coaster ride to nowhere with a lack of identity and direction.
Here are FIVE reasons why Louis van Gaal is to blame for United's continued demise:
1. The formation
Manchester United are a side that has laid it's foundation on an attacking 4-4-2 formation, changing ever so slightly in the past to a 4-4-1-1. Van Gaal quickly introduced a 3-5-2 at Old Trafford with little to no success especially considering that he never had seasoned wingbacks to employ on the flanks nor did he have three quality central defenders. Anyone remember the crowd chanting to him against QPR, demanding he change to a 4-4-2? This formation has rarely seen success in the English Premiership except possibly now, at arch-rivals Anfield under Brendan Rodgers. The formation generally leaves the midfield exposed and does not aide any real service to the two strikers.
2. Angel Di Maria
Bought for a club record £59.7 million, how then can Louis van Gaal continue to play the Argentine out of position? Di Maria has been used centrally in the 3-5-2 which negates his strengths of being able to run at defenders and beat them down the line. Di Maria is now being used on the right wing when all his success has come playing down the left for Real Madrid. Van Gaal must be partially to blame for Di Maria's average start to life at Old Trafford.
3. Radamel Falcao
Loaned from Monaco when it was decided to let Danny Welbeck leave for Arsenal, the Colombian has struggled with, initially, fitness and now confidence. Playing two out and out strikers is an anomaly in England these days - Chelsea do not do it, neither do Arsenal, Liverpool use onlyone while Manchester City have struggled when Manuel Pellegrini has tried to pair Dzeko with Aguero.
With Robin Van Persie out injured, Van Gaal had the perfect opportunity to give Falcao an extended starting run in the United lineup with Rooney playing behind him. Van Gaal must take the blame for failing to get the best out of a previously prolific striker. At times Falcao has lost his place to youngster James Wilson - is this any way to instill confidence in Falcao?
4. Not learning from past mistakes
Anyone who has watched Manchester United for more than three seasons will know that the likes of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young and lately Marouane Fellaini and Antonio Valencia (albeit being played out of position) are not up to standard - the Manchester United "Kings of England" standard. Van Gaal failed to move some of these players on, clearly not learning from David Moyes doomed reign in charge. The current manager has also failed to bolster the side in key areas (mainly central defence) despite the £170 million outlay on talent which meant talisman Wayne Rooney has been more of a Paul Scholes this season than a Ruud van Nistelrooy.
5. All of the above
While it is the player's who must produce the goods on the field, it is Van Gaal who must prepare them, and select which players must do it for him/the team, and Van Gaal has failed to do this job this season. Switching formations mid-game, playing player's out of position, not trying replicating the fast, fluid approach and relying too much on Fellaini's ability in the air have seen Manchester United lose their place as the best team in Manchester and now on the brink of becoming a non-factor in the future of the league's title races. What is Louis van Gaal's Manchester United philosophy?
Manchester United will not win a trophy this season and now must re-focus on the challenge of finishing inside the top four of the English Premiership with ten games left in the season. Van Gaal will need to inspire his side to produce consistent performances with Tottenham Hotspur visiting on Sunday before a trip to Liverpool, the looming Manchester Derby and league fixtures against Chelsea, Everton and Arsenal also in the pipeline.
The identity of the current crop of players in the home changing room at Old Trafford and the manager's name on the door may depend on it...
Follow Sport24's Wade Pretorius on Twitter: @wadepretorius