Van Gaal admits United must find fear factor
Louis van Gaal heads into a crucial week at Manchester United making the startling admission that his struggling team have lost the fear factor.
Van Gaal is scrapping to save his job and risked further scrutiny after conceding that United must restore their formidable reputation following a disastrous sequence of results.
United will face League One club Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup tonight before a potentially pivotal Europa League return against Danish minnows Midtjylland three days later.
The beleaguered Dutchman is under huge pressure to avoid defeat in either game, with Jose Mourinho ready to answer an SOS despite claims from United that their apparent interest is being instigated by the former Chelsea manager.
Mourinho is available and keen to take on the challenge of rebuilding United, yet Old Trafford chiefs are desperate for Van Gaal to mount a revival, with a finish in the Premier League's top four still a possibility.
United face Arsenal this weekend in another test for Van Gaal, who has effectively admitted that the club are no longer feared by their rivals.
When asked directly if teams no longer feared United, he said: "When you see the last two games, it is maybe like that. But then we have to make them fear (us) again because we lost the first match in the Premier League also, Swansea City, when I came.
"But then still we had a very good home record last season and we can do that again. It is a question of winning matches in a row.
"You cannot continue with losing games and the question is how we are lifting ourselves for that game because Shrewsbury Town shall fight also for the second balls and play direct and you have to cope with that."
Van Gaal was asked if Shrewsbury would consider facing United as an easier job after the calamitous defeat in Denmark against Midtjylland on Thursday night. "Maybe. I hope so because then it's a benefit for us."
The FA Cup was a competition that saved Alex Ferguson 26 years ago, with the victory in the final over Crystal Palace in a replay, and reaching the quarter-finals would ensure some respite for Van Gaal. Shrewsbury are in the League One relegation zone and have won only three games at home this season yet are certain to prove difficult opponents.
United are gripped by an injury crisis, with David De Gea the latest absentee after injuring himself in the warm-up at Midtjylland, and Sergio Romero will play at the Greenhous Meadow. Yet Van Gaal remains confident of securing a result to ease the pressure.
"It's not a question of being the favourite. It is a question of having to see every match as a match and that you have to win. Against Midtjylland we have lost 2-1, but we can overcome that," he said.
"And on Monday we have to win and when we win we are in the next round and we are capable to win the FA Cup because we have also won against Swansea City at home or Watford away. We have played Chelsea away. It is always possible.
"When you see Chelsea against Paris St-Germain, it is 2-1, but still Chelsea has a chance to come over. That's football. It's not always that you can say we shall win and it's normal. It is not like that."
Shrewsbury Town v Man Utd, Live, BT Sport 2, 7.45