Even top-four finish wouldn't have saved Van Gaal from Manchester United axe after he lost the dressing room
Manchester United are set to rubber-stamp the appointment of Jose Mourinho as the club's new manager today after sacking Louis van Gaal on Monday - 48 hours after the Dutchman ended Old Trafford's three-year trophy drought with the FA Cup.
Van Gaal, 64, was dismissed by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward in a morning meeting at the club's Carrington training ground, with a £5m pay-off covering the remaining 12 months of his contract, after failing to secure Champions League football for the club following a fifth-place Premier League finish.
And it is understood that the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach would have lost his job, even with a top-four finish, due to the United hierarchy being made aware in recent weeks of the dressing-room disharmony that had seen Van Gaal lose the support of the club's leading players.
United finally confirmed Van Gaal's departure at 8.30pm with a statement from Woodward.
"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)," Woodward 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 issued a diplomatic statement, thanking the club for the opportunity to manage in the Premier League, before expressing his regret at the cutting short of his three-year contract.
"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 England and be part of English culture. Both of these experiences have lived up to expectations and been fantastic.
"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."
Van Gaal's backroom team, including coach Albert Stuivenberg, goalkeeping coach Frans Hoek and video analyst Max Reckers, have also been sacked by United, but Ryan Giggs, Van Gaal's assistant, is considering a role to remain at the club under Mourinho.
United have moved to hire Mourinho as Van Gaal's replacement, six months on from the 53-year-old's dismissal as Chelsea manager. The Portuguese will be handed a three-year contract at Old Trafford, with the expectation that he will restore United to the Champions League next season and regain the Premier League title during his tenure.
Mourinho's first game in charge will be a pre-season friendly against Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai on July 22 - three days before United face Manchester City in Pep Guardiola's first game in charge of their neighbours in Beijing.
United could also introduce Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the tour of China with the club understood to be close to securing the out of contract Paris Saint-Germain player on a one-year deal as Mourinho's first signing.
Van Gaal's departure, while no surprise, proved a drawn out process, with the former Holland coach spending eight hours at Carrington resolving his severance package and that of his coaches.
One of Mourinho's first tasks will be to resolve the future of midfielder Michael Carrick, who has yet to be told whether he will be handed a new contract to replace his existing deal, which expires at the end of next month.