Louis van Gaal exit leaves door open for Jose Mourinho
LOUIS van Gaal's turbulent reign at Manchester United is over, with Monday's belated confirmation paving the way for Jose Mourinho to return to management.
Saturday's FA Cup triumph could not disguise a disappointing campaign in terms of style and substance at Old Trafford, with United failing to qualify for the Champions League.
Van Gaal has paid with his job as United put the divisive Dutchman out of his misery on Monday evening, two seasons into a three-year deal.
Former Chelsea manager Mourinho, who worked with Van Gaal at Barcelona, appears a shoo-in for the vacated post.
"Louis van Gaal is to leave Manchester United, with immediate effect," confirmed United in a statement.
United's statement added "a decision on a successor as manager will be announced soon" as executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward paid tribute to Van Gaal.
"I would like to thank Louis and his staff for their excellent work in the past two years culminating in winning a record equalling 12th FA Cup for the Club (and securing him a title in four different countries)," he said.
"He has behaved with great professionalism and dignity throughout his time here.
"He leaves us with a legacy of having given several young players the confidence to show their ability on the highest stage. Everyone at the club wishes him all the best in the future."
Van Gaal has been treading on thin ice for much of the campaign but remained confident about his future when questioned, including after Saturday's 2-1 extra-time win against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final.
Fresh reports that he was to be replaced by Mourinho emanated before the celebrations had even subsided at Wembley, with speculation fuelled the following day when he told a reporter outside the team hotel "it's over".
Van Gaal said "you will have to wait and see" when asked by another journalist whether he would still be in charge next season - something United confirmed would not be the case in a statement at 8.30pm on Monday.
The outgoing manager released a 415-word statement expressing his immense pride to have managed the club, calling the FA Cup win one of the most special achievements in his career.
"I am very disappointed to be unable to complete our intended three-year plan," Van Gaal said. "I believe that the foundations are firmly in place to enable the club to move forward and achieve even greater success.
"I hope that winning the FA Cup will give the club a platform to build upon next season to restore the success that this passionate set of fans desire.
"Having managed in Holland, Spain and Germany, I had always hoped for the opportunity to manage in English football and be part of English culture. Both of these experiences have lived up to expectations and been fantastic.
"I thank my players and wish them well for next season. It has been a pleasure to work with them and it has been particularly rewarding to see so many young players take their chance to break into the first team and excel. I look forward to watching the continued development of these young players next season.
"Thank you to the owners and board of Manchester United for giving me the opportunity to manage this great club.
"I would also like to express my gratitude to the amazing United supporters. They are truly the best fans in the world.
"I am indebted to my support and coaching staff, who have given me their all during their time at the club.
"I am deeply grateful to each and every member of the club's staff - the sports science team, the medical team, the kit and laundry department, club administration, the press office, the manager's team, the Academy team, ground staff and the catering team, both at Old Trafford stadium and Carrington training ground, all of whom have given me their unwavering support in my time at United. Never in my 25 years as a manager have I been so well supported in my role.
"Finally, my special thanks go to Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton for always making me and my family feel so welcome throughout my time as Manchester United manager."
Between 8.45am and 4.50pm the outgoing manager was at United's Aon Training Complex, where he was joined by employment lawyer Paul Gilroy QC, who has long worked with the League Managers Association.
There has yet to be any official confirmation on the fate of Van Gaal's backroom team, but it is has been suggested assistant coaches Albert Stuivenberg and Frans Hoek, as well as performance analyst Max Reckers, have left.
The biggest question regarding the backroom team regards assistant Ryan Giggs' future, with reports suggesting the former winger could end a 29-year association with United.
The club's all-time appearance maker has served Van Gaal and predecessor David Moyes - and there are suggestions he has been offered the chance to stay at the club.
As for United's next manager, Mourinho's agent Jorge Mendes is said to be arriving in Manchester on Tuesday to discuss a deal for his client.
Out of a job since being sacked by Chelsea in December, the Portuguese has repeatedly spoken of his plans to return to work this summer and reviving United's fortunes would look a mouth-watering proposition for the self-styled 'Special One'.
Removal men were spotted outside Mourinho's London home on Monday.