It seems like every week there's fresh headlines about Van Gaal and how things aren't quite working for him at Manchester United. Is the criticism warranted or is it over the top?
Van Gaal was given time by the fans in his first season because of how poor things were under David Moyes.
Last pre-season even more money was spent and the standard of football still hasn’t improved. If anything it’s slightly worse than under Moyes. The trouble Van Gaal has is that performances are poor, we’re not looking like a top four team and there’s a certain Portuguese manager looking for a new job.
Wayne Rooney has been singled out as well, but seems to have come into a little bit of form lately. Is he simply just on the decline now or is he being stifled by LVG?
Throughout his career, even when at his best, Rooney would go on an impressive scoring run at different stages of the season. As he’s got older and probably because he’s been playing in the Premier League for so long his goal return has taken a hit.
Before Christmas he was heavily criticised, and rightly so in my opinion. Since the New Year though he looks angry again and the goals have flooded back. He’s still our best striker but he’s certainly not the Rooney of old. We hope the current run continues but fear it’s a brief bright spot in an otherwise average campaign.
That said, he could break Bobby Charlton’s record between now and May so from a personal point of view will be regarded as a highly successful year.
While we're talking managers, how would you feel about Mourinho after his alleged love letter? (Bear in mind, i asked a City fan about Pep Guardiola, just before we played them, and the next day he was appointed!)
Then I’m delighted that you’ve asked. The ‘biggest club in the world’ need to react after Guardiola’s appointment. Giggs is a legend and always will be but he needs to go elsewhere first. Mourinho might only last three years but other than Wenger which Premier League manager will still be at his current club in three years?
Get Mourinho in, get a director of football in, have an academy revamp and by the time Giggs or whoever else is ready to come in and take over we might have one or two exceptional youngsters to make the step up and make an impact at first team level. United need to be challenging and Mourinho is the only man I think that can do it at the moment.
Is it true that a lot of United fans are quite perversely enjoying not storming to victory every week? What is the general mood amongst fans at the moment?
United fans can accept defeat if they are putting other teams under pressure and having a real go.
At the moment United are having plenty of the ball but not scoring enough goals. When they do impress, like against Chelsea last week, they appear incapable of keeping a clan sheet. Earlier in the season the defensive part of the game was something to be proud of but that’s disappeared now as well.
What what be considered a good end to the season for you? The top four is still in reach and The FA Cup could still be anyones.
From here, I’d be amazed if we got fourth and won the FA Cup. I think most United fans would take fourth place IF it was offered now.
Are there any Sunderland players that you're particularly fearful of?
We always want our old boys to do well but not against us! Defoe is the man though.
I wouldn’t have minded him at United as a reserve choice forward a few years ago. I’ve always rated him and he looks like he’s hitting form for you at the right time. If he stays fit you’ll stay up.
Who should we be most wary of in the United ranks?
David De Gea. I’m serious! He’s phenomenal. If you get a chance then make sure that you score because he’s making us look better than we possibly are (if that makes sense).
Elsewhere, Martial is really improving. He’s playing out wide at the moment but his power and pace is proving too much for almost every defender he’s faced. He could go on to become a United legend.
Any memories of past visits to The Stadium of Light/Roker Park?
Yes I do and it’s not a good one. I remember in 1997 we beat Porto 4-0 in the Champions League on the Wednesday night and then you turned us over 2-1 at Roker on the Saturday. Our goal was an Andy Melville own goal I think as well! Gutted, but you thoroughly deserved it.
How do you see yourselves lining up for the game?
Unchanged from the Chelsea and Stoke game I think. Maybe one tweak at best.
Finally, a prediction please?
1-1. If you score the first goal though I think you might nick it.
Thanks to Tom for his time. You can hear Tom's podcast, The United End, here.