Louis van Gaal not feeling the pressure but wary of ending on a low note
Published 18/12/2015 | 13:01
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal insists he has been under far greater pressure in his career than he is now - but is wary of suffering the "great disappointment" of it concluding with him being sacked.
The 64-year-old Dutchman, who has stated his intention to retire when his current contract runs out in 2017, is enduring a tough time at the moment.
United are winless in five games in all competitions, have been beaten in their last two, are out of the Champions League and are six points off the top of the Barclays Premier League, while their playing style has been widely derided as dull.
On Friday Van Gaal dismissed reports suggesting there has been player unrest in the camp, stressing he has the "confidence" of the squad, as well as of the board.
But having admitted no manager is safe as he expressed his surprise at Jose Mourinho's sacking at Chelsea, Van Gaal also said he knows no improvement in United's results could mean "the end of the world" for him - and emphasised his eagerness to avoid bowing out from football by being fired.
Asked ahead of Saturday's home league clash with Norwich if he was currently under the most pressure he had been as a manager, Van Gaal said: "No.
"The pressure when I started as a manager was much higher. I cannot lose now that I am at the end of my career."
He was then asked if that affected his hunger and desire, and Van Gaal replied: "No, because I don't want to finish my career with the club sacking me.
"That would be a great disappointment for me, to say goodbye to the football world by being fired.
"I think my honour is much more pressure for me than the pressure of the media and the fans."
United fans have certainly been among the critics of the playing style, with some voicing their frustration at matches with boos and shouts of ''attack, attack, attack''.
And while questioning what he could lose at this stage of his career, Van Gaal did say: "If I lose the confidence of the fans, that for me would be very sad."
Asked about the supporter disgruntlement and whether he felt the fans were still with him, Van Gaal called for belief from the stands.
''It's always like that when you lose. Then fans have to prove their belief again," he said.
''The board can see what you can do as a manager in practice but the fans cannot see that, so when you lose you need the belief of the fans.
''It is a question for the fans, not the manager.''
Van Gaal has no doubt United need to start winning - after last week's loss at Bournemouth he set a specific target of victories in each of their next three games - and that it will provide an answer to criticism better than anything he can say.
But he also stressed on Friday that points are more important than performances in the current situation.
"We need that maybe, but for me it is more important that we win," he said when asked whether United needed to deliver a display on Saturday to lift the crowd.
If United are to win against Norwich, skipper Wayne Rooney could be key.
The striker has been out for three games with an ankle injury but has trained all week and Van Gaal said he may return to action on Saturday for what would be his 500th United appearance.
Rooney has not enjoyed his best campaign so far, but is still his club's top scorer for 2015-16 with seven goals.
And Van Gaal believes the 30-year-old can be a force at the top level for at least two or three more seasons.
"I think so because we are playing like we have played this year and nevertheless he has scored the most goals - it is still Wayne Rooney," Van Gaal said.
Defender Chris Smalling (groin) and midfielder Ander Herrera (hamstring) could also return on Saturday after spells on the sidelines.