Belfast Telegraph

Van Gaal can't escape the pressure as Man United take on Stoke

By Carl Markham

Louis van Gaal will once again be under pressure to deliver a victory and an improved performance when Manchester United host Stoke tonight.

Already low after watching their team embark upon a poor run of two wins from their last 10 Premier League matches, United fans watched on in despair on deadline day as the club failed to land any big names while neighbours Manchester City announced the appointment of the most sought-after coach in the world, Pep Guardiola.

Last Friday's 3-1 win over Derby in the FA Cup was a step in the right direction, but Van Gaal knows he could be back in hot water with the United fans if his team do not beat Stoke at Old Trafford.

"I'm not a stupid man. I'm an intelligent man and I cannot predict the atmosphere on Tuesday," the United manager said.

"I hope that we can give the same level of performance as against Derby."

United played with more flair and risk at Derby on Friday, but Van Gaal knows Stoke will offer a far sterner test of his team's top four credentials.

After all, the Potters handed Van Gaal one of the most chastening defeats of his reign on Boxing Day, when Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic scored in an easy 2-0 win for Mark Hughes' side. United lost just one of the following seven games to buy Van Gaal some time, but Juan Mata admits January was a month to forget.

"January is now over. It hasn't been an easy month but our victory in Derby leaves a good taste because it means a boost of energy for us: we move onto the next round of the FA Cup and also the team had good feelings and I think we played a good match," the United playmaker wrote in his weekly blog.

"It was a very positive win with a more dynamic, fluid style that we hope to maintain from now on. There is no time to enjoy the win in the FA Cup because we are already focused on our game against Stoke."

Belfast Telegraph


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