Belfast Telegraph

Defiant Man United Louis van Gaal is prepared to walk the walk

Under-fire united boss tells his critics to enjoy the wine but he storms out with a sour taste

By Mark Ogden

Louis van Gaal walked out of his weekly press conference at Manchester United yesterday in protest at speculation that he is on the brink of losing his job after insisting he has the "warmth and support of everybody" at the club.

With United preparing for the Boxing Day trip to Stoke City having lost three successive games and suffered Champions League elimination during that sequence, Van Gaal insisted he was only addressing the media at the club's Carrington training ground in order to avoid breaking Premier League regulations by failing to attend his pre-match press briefing.

The 64-year-old is battling to save his job after last Saturday's 2-1 defeat at home to promoted Norwich City left supporters booing the team off the pitch at Old Trafford.

But with Jose Mourinho - Van Gaal's former assistant at Barcelona - heavily linked with his job at United, the Dutchman hit out at suggestions that his job was on the line over the Christmas period, claiming the reports had affected his family, by answering just two questions in the space of four minutes and 58 seconds before walking out.

When asked whether he agreed with Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger that reports of his imminent demise had been disrespectful, Van Gaal replied: "Has anybody in this room not a feeling to apologise to me? That's what I'm wondering.

"I think I was already sacked, I read.

"I have been sacked. My colleague [Mourinho] was here already.

"What do you think happens with my wife or my kids? Or with my grandchildren? Or with the fans of Manchester United? Or my friends? What do you think?

"They have called me a lot of times and also Arsène Wenger is saying something about that.

"So you think that I want to talk with the media now? I am here only because of the Premier League rules. I have to talk with you.

"But I can only see when I say something that you use my words in your context."

Van Gaal went on to say that, in an effort to quell discontent in the dressing-room over his methods, he had held discussions with his players in the wake of the Norwich defeat.

"I want to say only I have tried to lift the confidence of my players," Van Gaal said.

"I have done everything this week.

"I held meetings with the players with my members of staff, I hold a Christmas lunch, I did a speech and I feel the warmth and support of everybody in Carrington, this AON training complex.

"But I didn't feel that in the media and, of course, I can imagine that you can write about that subject.

"We are not in a good position, but four weeks ago, we were first in the Premier League and in four weeks' time, we can be back in that position again."

When it was put to Van Gaal that, as manager of United, he should expect speculation over his position following a run of three wins in 13 games in all competitions, he insisted that was not the case and that he had received the backing the club's hierarchy, including former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, this week.

"No I don't think that you can do that because you have to stick by the facts," Van Gaal said. "And when I get calls off Alex Ferguson and David Gill and Ed Woodward because you are creating something that is not good.

"What is not being the facts, now I have to answer questions.

"I don't think I want to do it. I only say now I am focused on Stoke City and I help my players.

"I wish you a Merry Christmas and also maybe a Happy New Year when I see you. Enjoy the wine and a mince pie."

Van Gaal then walked out, refusing to answer further questions.

If the Dutch coach is sacked and United do not appoint Mourinho, sources suggest assistant manager Ryan Giggs is likely to get the role until at least the end of the season.

Appointing Mourinho would end United's pursuit of Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola but there is concern that if they wait too long they run the risk of losing out on the Portuguese, who is currently being touted for a return to Real Madrid.

Mourinho is fully ready and willing to take the United job above all others, but sources say his representatives have made efforts to be respectful over the matter due to the manager's relationship with Van Gaal, whom he worked alongside at Barcelona.

Belfast Telegraph


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