MANCHESTER: Louis van Gaal has vowed to fight on as Manchester United manager, but admits that the matter may yet be taken out of his hands by the club’s board.
The Dutchman, 64, has faced three weeks of speculation after a run of games that has seen United slip to sixth place in the Premier League table and limp out of the Champions League in the group phase.
Despite an improved display, they could only draw 0-0 with misfiring champions Chelsea at Old Trafford on Monday-their sixth goalless stalemate at home of the season-but Van Gaal said that behind the scenes, everyone at the club was pulling in the same direction.
“The environment (around the club) is making the crisis,” he said. “Inside the club the players are willing to fight for every metre, the manager is willing to fight, the members of staff are willing to fight and the board is very confident in the staff and their manager.”
Speaking after Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Stoke City, which was United’s fourth in a row, a subdued Van Gaal had suggested that he could elect to leave the club rather than wait for the axe to fall.
But he was defiant after the draw with Chelsea, proclaiming “I shall not resign” in a television interview, and explaining that he had raised the issue of resignation merely to demonstrate that the club did not hold all the cards with regard to his future.
He also said that he had walked out of a press conference prior to the Stoke game in protest at “lies” in the media. “That’s the reason I walk away in the press conference,” he said. “Not with a ‘stormy’ head or ‘angry’ head. No, I walk with a quietness because I want to make my point.”
United appeared to have rediscovered an element of vim in the early stages against Chelsea, with Juan Mata and Anthony Martial hitting the woodwork.
Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney also went close, while Willian might have conceded a penalty for handball, but Chelsea had chances of their own, David de Gea thwarting John Terry, Pedro Rodriguez and Cesar Azpilicueta, and Nemanja Matic blazing over when clean through.
For all his talk of fighting on, Van Gaal acknowledged that he will be powerless to do anything if United’s owners the Glazer family and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward decide to remove their backing.
“I have said that Manchester United has a lot of confidence in (their) manager and I have not received that in every club,” he said. “But of course I know that there are circumstances that a board has to decide to sack the manager. I’m looking always from my point of view and that can be not the right view.
“In this crazy football world that can happen every day, also with me. When it happens to Jose Mourinho, then it can happen with me.”
Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink remains without a win after two games of his second stint in interim charge, the 3-1 win over Sunderland having occurred before he took up his functions, but he has seen signs of progress.
“No win, but we have to look and consider the situation where Chelsea was or is and now we are three games (in) and what is important is the boys experienced a very bad half year and they have to lift it up,” he said.
“Starting with Sunderland and Watford (against whom Chelsea drew 2-2) and now, the team knows what to do.”
Chelsea are only three points above the relegation zone, but Hiddink, who revealed that Cesc Fabregas had missed the match with a high temperature, said that they were moving in the right direction.
“Of course I’m worried,” he said. “But I would have been more worried (if) there was a lack of confidence or a lack of ambition or lethargy. That’s what I don’t see at the moment in this team.” – AFP