Wednesday 7 December 2016

Louis van Gaal returns to work in Carrington as Man United dismiss talk of axe

Phil Medlicott

Published 26/01/2016 | 13:27

Louis van Gaal's Manchester United slumped to a 1-0 home defeat to Southampton on Saturday.
Louis van Gaal's Manchester United slumped to a 1-0 home defeat to Southampton on Saturday.

Beleaguered Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal returned to work on Tuesday as the club dismissed talk of him having offered to quit after Saturday's 1-0 home loss to Southampton.

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Reports emerged late on Monday suggesting the Dutchman spoke to United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward about his future immediately after the Barclays Premier League contest at the weekend.

Within that, there were some claims Van Gaal had offered his resignation - but United on Tuesday morning denied that was the case.

Meanwhile, the 64-year-old was back at the club's Aon Training Complex in Carrington after two days off for him and the players that were always scheduled, and during which he is understood to have been with his family in Holland.

Amid the intense speculation about his position and with him reportedly set for further discussions this week with Woodward, who was not in Manchester on Tuesday, Van Gaal has United's next game to think about.

That is Friday's FA Cup fourth-round trip to Derby, where a poor result - or even just a lacklustre performance - against the Sky Bet Championship side is only likely to increase the scrutiny on, and anger from United fans towards, Van Gaal, should he still be in his job by then.

Loud boos rang around Old Trafford following the final whistle of Saturday's game as Van Gaal endured what he later described as the worst reaction he has heard from United supporters during his time in charge.

He also said they were ''right to boo'' and added: ''I'm very disappointed that I cannot reach the expectations of the fans.

''They have - or they had - great expectations of me, and I cannot fulfil them.''

The Red Devils, whose style of play has frequently been criticised, had just one shot on target during the defeat.

They are five points off the Premier League's top four in fifth place, 10 points behind leaders Leicester, and have won only three of their last 13 matches in all competitions, a sequence which has included seeing them exit the Champions League.

The message understood to be coming from the board early on during that run of results was one of full support for Van Gaal, but it will be interesting to see how things develop from here.

Former United chief executive David Gill, now a non-executive director, admitted on Sunday "it's been a season of under-achievement", while it has been reported Woodward has been in touch with a number of players and senior figures at the club since the Southampton game about the situation.

United brought in former Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Holland boss Van Gaal as David Moyes' successor in the summer of 2014 on a three-year deal.

And his first season in the job saw the team secure a route back into the Champions League, improving on a Premier League finish of seventh a year earlier by claiming fourth spot.

There had been hopes of a challenge for the title this term, but the chances of that look slim after Saturday's loss, which leaves United on 37 points after 23 games.

They had three points more at the same stage of the season that Moyes - sacked in April of the campaign - was in charge, and were still in the Champions League.

What really appears to have damaged Van Gaal's standing among the club's fans is the manner of performances under him.

Supporters have increasingly vented their frustration at what is widely regarded as a dull brand of football.

The Southampton contest was the 11th straight home game in which United failed to score in the first half, and the seventh home match this season in which they did not net at all.

As well as booing, chants of "attack, attack, attack" have been heard coming from the Old Trafford stands, but Van Gaal's team - featuring a host of big-money signings - have generally been unable to make a positive response.

And it would appear, with only a few days left before deadline, there has been little progress made in any attempts to boost the squad with further recruits in the current transfer window.

Press Association

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