Louis van Gaal: Atmosphere in Manchester United dressing room is maybe too good
Louis van Gaal has criticised his players for creating a cosy atmosphere within the Manchester United dressing room.
While the pressure on Van Gaal is now not as intense as it was towards the end of 2015, when his team went on their worst run in 26 years, an early exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Sheffield United this weekend would shift the spotlight back on to the Red Devils boss.
Van Gaal took the flak for that sequence of eight matches without a win, but his players must take a portion of the blame too.
The United manager hinted on the eve of Saturday's third round tie that life had almost become too easy for his players.
The Dutchman is, quite understandably, keen to foster a harmonious environment within his squad, but claims there should be plenty of room for constructive criticism at Carrington and Old Trafford too.
"No I don't think so," Van Gaal said when asked if the players' mood had been lifted following a win over Swansea and a draw versus Chelsea.
"I think the atmosphere in our dressing room is very good. Maybe too good because they are always protecting the dressing room, their colleagues.
"That is very good, until a certain point."
Paul Ince once cited the double-winning team of the 1993-94 season as the best of Sir Alex Ferguson's time at United thanks to the constant pursuit of perfection from the likes of himself, Eric Cantona, Peter Schmeichel and Roy Keane, who would not hesitate to call out anyone in the dressing room that they felt were not up to the task.
"That 93-94 team was Fergie's best because there were so many opinionated people, we had rows but we came together on the pitch," the former United midfielder said in 2008.
Van Gaal has also revealed he has taken steps to ensure the dressing room is more democratic.
The United boss has started asking his players for more input with regard to tactics and game plans in an attempt to turn the club's fortunes around.
"We have also changed our approach to the players to make it easier to take responsibility," he said.
"I have stimulated them to think about football. The game is a brain sport and now you can let them think with you and therefore you can change your approach and so the players take the commitment, for example, for the game plan and other kinds of decisions and then the commitment is higher and bigger.
"But we have to see how it shall work."
One manager known for his man management skills is Pep Guardiola.
The highly-rated Catalan manager announced on Tuesday his intention to move to the Premier League when he leaves Bayern Munich in the summer.
Van Gaal insists he does not feel threatened by the former Barcelona manager's declaration.
''I'm at the end of my career so for me it's not so interesting," said Van Gaal, who managed Guardiola during his two spells as Barca manager.
"For me it is interesting how I take care of Manchester United in my contract and after this season I still have one year to go.''
A few weeks ago it seemed unlikely Van Gaal would have the chance to see out that contract.
The 64-year-old appeared to have ridden out the troubles until Adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer rocked the boat with his take on United's playing style this week.
Hainer, who signed off a £750million sponsorship deal with United last year, said United's style is "not exactly what we want to see."
Van Gaal insists he has a "very good" relationship with Hainer, who was on the board at the time the Dutchman was in charge of Bayern, and played down the significance of the criticism.
"I don't think I have to respond to that kind of remark," Van Gaal said.
"I do think that is more the function of my chief executive (Ed Woodward) to respond.
"I have a very good relationship (with Hainer). He was on the front row when I was at Bayern Munich (earlier this season) at a sponsor's event.
"He is more interested in revenues and these were very good."