David Moyes was sacked on Tuesday morning after Manchester United's worst season since the Premier League was created. Player-coach Ryan Giggs, 40, was named interim manager but is not expected to be considered for the permanent job at the end of the season.
Before Moyes' sacking, Van Gaal was joint favourite with Borussia Dortmund's Juergen Klopp, who has since ruled himself out of the running. Bayern Munich's Pep Guardiola also refuted claims he would be in line for a shock switch only one season after joining the Bundesliga champions.
As a result, Van Gaal the former Bayern, Barcelona, Ajax and AZ coach Ð has shot to the top of the bookmakers' lists, with most listing him as evens or odds-on to get the job after his Netherlands contract expires following the World Cup.
Meanwhile, the odds on other candidates are lengthening rapidly second favourite Klopp is down to 10/1 with some bookies, although Jose Mourinho has shortened from 40/1 to anything as low as 12/1. Unlikely, given United snubbed him first time round.
With United set to pay Moyes around £5m in compensation, Van Gaal's freedom of contract would soften the economic blow of sacking the Scot. The Dutchman is also a renowned disciplinarian, a strong character who takes complete control of the dressing room, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Moyes floundered under pressure, but Van Gaal has been there, won it, and got the t-shirt. Klopp was the fan choice Guardiola was never a realistic option but he is devoted to Dortmund and genuinely believes he can turn them into Germany's no.1 team. Had Klopp not rejected the idea out of hand it may be different, but right now Van Gaal who is openly courting a Premier League job seems a no-brainer.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
United will begin negotiations with Van Gaal in the coming weeks, with the 62-year-old reportedly putting his feet up in his Portuguese holiday home ahead of the World Cup. Ideally they will have him on board sooner rather than later, as it would allow him to establish a backroom team to set things up for pre-season, not to mention identifying and contacting transfer targets before, during and after the summer showpiece in Brazil. Fans would do well to remember that these things take longer in real life than they do in computer games, with staffing negotiations a contractual minefield.