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Poll: Is Jose Mourinho the right man to manage Manchester United?

'I can't imagine club have spoken to Jose Mourinho': Louis Van Gaal

By Mark Ogden

Published 12/02/2016

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal
Jose Mourinho admits he is ready to get back into football
Louis van Gaal and Manchester United have left their fans short of goalmouth action
Jose Mourinho, left, and Louis van Gaal, right, are former touchline rivals
Louis van Gaal's position at Manchester United remains under scrutiny
A scarf seller sells Jose Mourinho Manchester United scarves before the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday December 28, 2015. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal remains under intense pressure
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: A fan poses with a Manchester United scarf displaying the image and name of former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, outside the stadium before the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on December 28, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal hit back at speculation over his future

Louis van Gaal brushed off suggestions Manchester United have approached Jose Mourinho to replace him at Old Trafford, but is the Portuguese coach the right man for the job should Van Gaal's services be dispensed with at the end of the season, as has been reported? Take our poll below.

Louis van Gaal smiles an awful lot when the television cameras are switched off. He likes a joke too, but then the public face of the Manchester United manager is very different to the one he projects behind the scenes at the club's Carrington training base.

This season has not been short on images of Van Gaal in confrontation mode in post-match interviews and press conferences - he admits he is "provocative" when entering the media bear-pit.

So it was a slightly awkward moment when a fan event at Carrington to honour Barclays Spirit of the Game hero Jack Fitzsimmons this week was halted by the Dutchman noting my presence in the room as he spoke of his wariness of the media.

"I must keep an eye on him," Van Gaal declared to his audience, before leaving the top table, pulling up a chair beside me and giving me a theatrical bear-hug to prove that, really, he is not so fearsome after all.

Read more: Louis Van Gaal won't cite assistant Ryan Giggs as his Manchester United successor

According to those who work with Van Gaal, the jocular side of his character is rarely far from the surface, from the ground staff who talk of his politeness to the jokes with Mike Donnelly, the club chef, who will inform the manager what he thinks about results.

"I hope that all the people who work with me remember me as a human being," Van Gaal says when we chat after the fans have left for home. "It is special here at Carrington, but I think it was the same for me in Munich and Barcelona.

"When you give your fellow employees attention, it makes a difference. I am empathetic to the job and I want to be a human being where I work.

"Sometimes players are fed up with my communication, but that's what I do and they know how I think. But they know I am very transparent."

Jose Mourinho's best moments: Would you like me to lapdance for you?
Jose Mourinho made an appearance on Italian television show Chiambretti Night, shortly after his move to Italy. As England manager Fabio Capello once found out, part of the show involves a private dance from a scantily clad woman. Mourinho appeared to find it difficult to stay awake for the performance.
Jose Mourinho's best moments: Would you like me to lapdance for you? Jose Mourinho made an appearance on Italian television show Chiambretti Night, shortly after his move to Italy. As England manager Fabio Capello once found out, part of the show involves a private dance from a scantily clad woman. Mourinho appeared to find it difficult to stay awake for the performance.
Mourinho announces his arrival
Mourinho's first press conference in England, staged to announce his appointment as Chelsea manager, was to both start the trend of things to come and lay the foundations for his legend:
'Please don't call me arrogant, but I'm European champion and I think I'm a special one.'
Time to celebrate Before Mourinho was appointed as manager of Chelsea, many English fans were already aware of his existence - especially Manchester United fans. In charge of Porto, his team came to Old Trafford and beat the odds by knocking United out of the Champions League thanks to a last minute goal. As Costinha bundled the ball home, Mourinho set off on a wild run down the Old Trafford touchline to celebrate.
Le Professor? Non. Le Voyeur 'I think he is one of these people who is a voyeur,' Mourinho famously said of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger in October 2005. 'He likes to watch other people. There are some guys who, when they are at home, have a big telescope to see what happens in other families. He speaks, speaks, speaks about Chelsea.'
Winning the title After Mourinho's assertion that he was the 'Special One', the Portuguese wasted no time in proving the doubters wrong. In his first season as Chelsea boss, he led the club to their first league title in 50 years. He would go on to win the league title again the following season as well as the FA Cup, two League Cups and one Community Shield during his time in charge.
Omelettes and eggs 'It is omelettes and eggs. No eggs - no omelettes! It depends on the quality of the eggs.' Mourinho was explaining in his own special way the issue of money drying up at Stamford Bridge. He continued: 'In the supermarket you have class one, two or class three eggs and some are more expensive than others and some give you better omelettes. So when the class one eggs are in Waitrose and you cannot go there, you have a problem.'
Terrier threat Mourinho was arrested and cautioned in 2007 after allegedly refusing to allow police to quarantine his pet dog. He reportedly rushed home from an awards ceremony after he was tipped off by his wife about what was going on. Upon returning home, eyewitnesses claimed he freed the animal from the health officials, rushed out into the street and encouraged his pet to run off. He then told them, 'I've sent my dog to St Tropez.'
Pressure ....We're told that football managers are under constant pressure. But Mourinho didn't agree: Pressure? There is no pressure. Bird Flu is pressure. (The press laugh) No, you laugh, but I am being serious. I am more worried about the swan then I am about football.
Out with the laundry This story is unproven, but the audacity of it if it is true makes it worth recounting. Mourinho was banned by Uefa from having any contact with his Chelsea players during the 2005 Champions League quarter-finals. To get around this, it's alleged that Mourinho sneaked into the ground early and gave both the pre-game and half-time team-talks. While the game was in play, Mourinho watched from the dressing room and relayed instructions to assistant Rui Faria, who it's suggested was wearing an earpiece - covered by a suspiciously large hat (pictured). After the game Mourinho was reportedly wheeled out of the stadium in a laundry basket.
On the bus Following a 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur, Mourinho quipped:
'As we say in Portugal, they brought the bus and they left the bus in front of the goal.'
Sssshhhh... Mourinho bagged his first trophy for Chelsea with a Carling Cup triumph over Liverpool. But at the time almost as much was made of his gesture to Liverpool fans as was Chelsea's 3-2 win. When Steven Gerrard scored a late own-goal to send the match into extra-time, Mourinho turned to the Liverpool fans, who had been barracking him all game, and put his finger to his lips as if to suggest 'be quiet'. Mourinho later claimed he was gesturing towards the press - but no-one believed him.
Rijkaard and the ref 'When I saw Rijkaard entering the referee's dressing room I couldn't believe it. When Drogba was sent off I didn't get surprised.'
This quote from Mourinho caused a storm. The Chelsea boss was suggesting that Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard had paid a visit to the dressing room of referee Anders Frisk during half-time of their Champions League encounter. It was a hugely damaging statement that led to a two match ban for Mourinho, saw him labelled the 'enemy of football' by Uefa's head of referees, and led to the retirement of Frisk who was receiving death threats following the match.
Melons Mourinho apparently liked using food as an analogy for his thoughts, as he proved when discussing his youth players at Chelsea:
'Young players are a little bit like melons. Only when you open and taste the melon are you 100 per cent sure that the melon is good. Sometimes you have beautiful melons but they don't taste very good and some other melons are a bit ugly and when you open them, the taste is fantastic. For example, Scott Sinclair, the way he played against Arsenal and Man United, we know the melon we have.'
Chin up
An enduring image of Mourinho was his gesture to Chelsea fans that they keep their 'chin up' following a draw to Arsenal that ended their hopes of another league title. His strength in the face of defeat was another feather in his bow.
It's the president When Mourinho when asked by a Ghanaian journalist if he ever phoned Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to see how he was, the Portuguese replied:
'Would you phone the president of Ghana?'
Bonjourno Mourinho showed no signs of letting up after his move to Italy. Much like his introduction to England, he captivated the press at the first opportunity. In his opening press conference he spoke fluent Italian (something he claimed to have learned in three-weeks 'because I'm very intelligent'). And following one awkward question, Mourinho paused before delivering a classic piece of Milanese slang: 'Non sono un pirla' - 'I'm not a d**khead'. The room exploded in laughter and brought Mourinho his first round of applause on Italian soil.
Take him down Mourinho's popularity waned during his time in Italy, when his constant jibes at officials, managers and referees antagonised just about everyone in Italy, including his own fans. A notable episode involved the Special One performing a 'handcuffs' gesture after seeing Inter's Walter Samuel and Ivan Cordoba sent off and Samuel Eto'o booked in a match with Sampdoria. He received a three-game ban.
Leaving on a high Despite the mutual disharmony between Mourinho and Italy in general, after completing an unprecedented treble with Inter Milan last season, a shared respect was formed. Mourinho would leave Inter shortly after their Champions League triumph, declaring:
'My work here is done. I have been very happy at Inter but not in the world of Italian football because I don't like all the comments from presidents, coaches and papers. But I will always like Inter. I want to thank Italian football because I have become a better coach for it.'
Up to his old tricks Ahead of the first of Real Madrid's current four meetings with Barcelona, it was announced shortly before a press conference that Mourinho would not be answering questions. Instead, his assistant Aitor Karanka would be speaking. But then, rather bizarrely, Mourinho attended the press conference yet continued his silence. Journalists were furious and staged a mass walk-out.
The Premier League success is Jose Mourinho's third with the club
Jose Mourinho says his Premier League-winning side will have to be even better next season
Crowning moment: Jose Mourinho and Chelsea bid farewell to Didier Drogba after lifting the Premier League trophy
Shocking: Jose Mourinho has been left stunned by events at Chelsea this season
Jose Mourinho's Chelsea side are under pressure going into the clash with Liverpool
Eva Carneiro
A supporters wearing a Jose Mourinho mask waves from his seat ahead of the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London on October 31, 2015. AFP/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31: Chelsea fans hold a banner to show their faith to Jose Mourinho prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on October 31, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31: Chelsea fans wearing Jose Mourinho, John Terry and Diego Costa masks are seen on the stand prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on October 31, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho watched as his side lost 3-1 to Liverpool
Out of form: Diego Costa was on the bench for Chelsea
Chelsea's assistant manager Steve Holland (left), Diego Costa and Kenedy (right) before the Barclays Premier League match at the White Hart Lane, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday November 29, 2015. See PA story SOCCER Tottenham. Photo credit should read: John Walton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Chelsea's Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa (top) passes Chelsea's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho as he goes to warm up during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane in north London on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
Chelsea's Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa (R) walks along the touch line during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane in north London on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho (cenrtre) with assistants Rui Faria (left) and Steve Holland on the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match at The King Power Stadium, Leicester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday December 14, 2015. See PA story SOCCER Leicester. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho's miserable season shows no sign of improving
Jose Mourinho has left Chelsea
STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: A Stoke City fan wears a Jose Mourinho mask as he poses with a P45 for Louis van Gaal, manager of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Manchester United at Britannia Stadium on December 26, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
Jose Mourinho

Van Gaal is speaking the day after Diego Costa's stoppage-time goal for Chelsea denied United victory at Stamford Bridge and while his mood post-match was highlighted by a spiky press conference, the 64-year-old is in good spirits as he participates in the Q&A session.

But in our exclusive interview, he is also prepared to discuss the burning issues - his future, criticism from fans and former players, and whether United are preparing to replace him with Jose Mourinho, his one-time protégé from his time at Barca.

"I have not said that we have spoken, but he (Mourinho) is my friend," Van Gaal says. "But I don't know if United have spoken with Mourinho or not.

"I can only say that I have spoken with (United's executive vice-chairman) Ed Woodward and I cannot imagine that they have spoken with each other.

Read more: Jose Mourinho 'agrees £15m-a-season Manchester United deal'

"I think that if they speak with another manager, they would tell me because our relationship is like that. But I think that, if they want to change, they have to prepare themselves. That is also a professional attitude in my opinion."

Having been a top-level coach for over two decades, Van Gaal (below) is pragmatic about the nature of his business, but insists he is comfortable with the trust he has built up with Woodward and United's owners, the Glazers.

"I not only have a strong relationship with Ed, but also with the Glazers," he said.

"And that is why I am annoyed with all the publicity. I have been 'sacked' three times."

When December came and went without victory and included Champions League elimination, Van Gaal's position was the subject of intense scrutiny and the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach spoke of the anxiety experienced by his friends and family.

Van Gaal's response since has been to go on the front foot, fight his corner and reject the notion of having offered his resignation, but he admits he does not enjoy the "battle".

"I am used to a lot of criticism," he says. "My performances in the media are provocative, but I have had to cope with the criticism. It is not any more stress or bother to have to deal with it.

"That is because, with the way I speak, my players are always protected. It is always against Louis van Gaal, it is never against my players.

"But do I enjoy it? No, because I am annoyed. I am very annoyed and there are a lot of people who know me who know that I am an honest guy and I will defend the good things and attack the wrong things.

"The Glazers are disappointed. Ed Woodward is disappointed and I am also disappointed because we are now further away from the top.

"But you have to analyse what is happening. It is not normal that Luke Shaw is out for a year, that (Antonio) Valencia, (Bastian) Schweinsteiger and (Marcos) Rojo are also out.

"Contact injuries happen in any country, but we have been very unlucky this year. It is not normal."

The injuries have been a pivotal factor in United's inability to mount a serious challenge for the Premier League title according to Van Gaal, with the club beginning to lose touch with the top four and prospect of Champions League qualification.

But the flipside to the personnel problems has been the emergence of home-grown youngsters such as Jesse Lingard and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and the eye-catching progress of Anthony Martial, the August arrival from Monaco.

Having given youth its head at Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern, Van Gaal insists he will always take the risk of trusting young players.

"It is always good that you educate your own players, in the culture of Manchester United and also the playing style of Manchester United," Van Gaal says.

"It is important, but I have taken a risk in minimising my squad to accommodate young players because when you have a lot of injuries, you have problems. But now I have given the chance to Lingard and Borthwick-Jackson, while Martial and Memphis (Depay) are also very young.

"You have seen Xavi and (Andres) Iniesta, for example, I gave them their debuts at Barcelona. Also Thiago Motta, but they (young players) have to do it themselves.

"But when I leave, I cannot help them anymore, they do it by themselves and that is also very good because I am only a means to an end for them. They do it by themselves, but maybe I can be a very good means for my players."

Having insisted he will retire from coaching at the end of his United contract in June 2017 - "I have promised my wife because she has helped me for 20 years now" - Van Gaal accepts that his successor will reap the dividends of his readiness to turn to youth.

But he also admits that United's choice as the club's next manager will have implications for the youngsters.

"I hope that people will look back in the future and talk of the young players as my legacy, but you can never tell," Van Gaal says.

"The next manager would also have to show the confidence in the younger players. So I cannot judge. If United, after I retire, hire a manager who does not give the benefit of the doubt to youngsters, then it shall be very difficult.

"It is also very important for the United board to look at the profile of the new manager. If they ask (for a recommendation as manager), I shall give my opinion.

"But I never reign beyond my grave and, when I am gone, I cannot influence or contribute.

"It is up to the young players to take their opportunities, though, and the main factor in that is the player himself.

"It's here (he points to his head), but also his attitude, how he deals with negative things, because it is not always sunshine.

"You have to deal with a lot of things when you are a football player and that is not so easy. The talent is about technique and tactics and physics, but you also have to cope with a lot of other aspects and it is not easy."

Now at the halfway stage of his three-year contract, the future is uncertain, with Van Gaal admitting he can't claim that progress towards achieving his stated aim of winning the league is on track.

"It is not a straight line in football," Van Gaal says. "It is always up and down. It is possible, but it's a process that has ups and downs."

The Dutchman's belief remains intact, however, that he can improve the team's fortunes and prove his detractors wrong, particularly those who once played for the club.

"In Barcelona, the fans were more critical. In Ajax, too," Van Gaal says. "In my first year at Ajax, it was not a happy year. At the end, we won the Uefa Cup, but it was not a happy season.

"I took over from Leo Beenhakker and we lost the first three matches, so what do you think the fans were yelling? 'Cruyff,' for a whole year.

"I have always coped with that kind of thing. In England, it is more the result than performance, only when Paul Scholes started he influenced a certain amount of fans."

Scholes' comments about United's "boring" football, which coincided with the team's worst run of form, hit a nerve in the stands and within the club, but despite the former Old Trafford midfielder's close friendship with assistant manager Ryan Giggs, Van Gaal insists he has no reason to ask his No.2 to step in as a peacemaker.

"No, I don't think that I have to give Ryan stress in his friendship with Scholes," he says.

"I have managed all of my career, so it would not be good or honest of me to ask Ryan to say something.

"What Scholes is thinking, he has to think it. Every human can give his opinion. But my problem is when you create a very negative atmosphere for somebody, so maybe he should be more positive."

Until United reclaim their position as English football's leading power, however, the criticism and scrutiny will rain down on every occupant of the manager's seat.

One defeat in eight games suggests a corner has been turned, with the display at Chelsea also a reason for optimism, but as the name of Mourinho (left) continues to swirl, Van Gaal remains focused on the football.

"We have to finish games off," he says. "We have to develop and improve further because we played very well at Chelsea, but did not finish the game. This year, we lost goals in the last minute against Newcastle, Southampton and Chelsea. It has cost us five points, so we must learn how to finish games."

If United learn that, gain points and climb the table this softer, light-hearted Van Gaal, who is convinced the sun is ready to shine on Old Trafford again, might appear more often in front of the cameras as well as behind.

Louis van Gaal was speaking at a Barclays event to inspire the next generation of fans to fall in love with football. To win Barclays Premier League tickets search: Barclays Spirit of the Game.

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