If Man United haven't axed Louis van Gaal yet, they aren't likely to until the end of the season, argues Michael Lintorn...
"If Van Gaal survived four losses in a row and an eight-match winless streak in November and December – when 1/4 favourite to succeed him Jose Mourinho seemed keen, the transfer window hadn’t passed and there was more time to revive a title challenge – why would two bad results after a brighter spell provoke Man United to act?"
If anyone associated with Manchester United thought that their run of five wins and a draw in seven games at the start of 2016 signalled resurgence, successive defeats to Sunderland and FC Midtjylland have made it agonisingly apparent how much work is left to do.
The latter result occurred mere days after Louis van Gaal shifted a significant percentage of his eggs over to the basket marked "Europa League" by declaring it an "easier" route into next season's Champions League than a top-four Premier League finish.
That misguided choice of words, which came less than a month after the Dutchman insisted that his squad remained title contenders following their 1-0 victory at Liverpool, coupled with his attempt to attribute recent setbacks to "the law of Murphy", has intensified speculation over his future.
Van Gaal is a 4/6 frontrunner in the Next Premier League Manager to Leave Post market on the Betfair Sportsbook, but there is no reason to believe that his departure is imminent.
After all, if the 64-year-old survived four losses in a row and an eight-match winless streak in November and December - when 1/4 favourite to succeed him Jose Mourinho seemed keen, the transfer window hadn't passed and there was more time to revive a title challenge - why would two bad results after a brighter spell provoke them to act?
If there is desperation to ensure Champions League participation in 2016/17, it has been very well hidden by the January inactivity and refusal to be swayed by months of anti-Van Gaal media coverage, much as they didn't sack David Moyes in 2013/14 until fourth was officially beyond reach.
There may well be a change in the summer, yet the club have shown no urgency to move quicker, with one possible explanation being the awkwardness of the Ryan Giggs situation.
Van Gaal himself has admitted that his assistant is supposed to take over when he leaves - even if he lasts the length of his contract, LVG is expected to retire in 2017 - and the Red Devils legend is the 13/2 joint-second favourite to be the next boss.
However, there is reported to be reluctance on both sides for him to have another caretaker stint, as happened when Moyes was eventually ditched in April two years ago.
The 20-time champions won't want to put themselves in a position where they are forced to stick with Giggs if he impresses as a quick fix, while the 42-year-old doesn't wish to cast himself into the role of stand-in until someone more qualified comes along owing to his own managerial ambitions.
So the earliest that Van Gaal is likely to go is once Champions League qualification is mathematically unobtainable and if, as looks probable, Aston Villa's relegation to the Championship is confirmed before that, 4/1 second favourite to be next out Remi Garde will potentially beat him to the exit.