Saturday 7 December 2019

Dressing-room argument helps United get back on track

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal

Pete Oliver

Louis Van Gaal has welcomed the transition of Manchester United's dressing-room from a place of harmony to a verbal sparring ground.

Van Gaal complained earlier this month that the atmosphere among United's players was "maybe too good" as they stuck up for each other and protected team-mates during an eight-match winless run which threatened to derail their season and cost Van Gaal his job.

But at half-time at Anfield last Sunday that changed, with midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin admitting United's players had been "screaming and shouting" at each other following a lacklustre first half.

The visitors ended up winning 1-0 thanks to a late goal from captain Wayne Rooney, who had contributed to the heated debate, which extended United's unbeaten run to five games.

And the Dutchman is happy for his players to keep tearing strips off each other if it means they are taking extra responsibility for their performances, citing a positive example from the 1995 Champions League final when a half-time rant from Frank Rijkaard inspired Van Gaal's side to beat Bayern Munich with a late Patrick Kluivert strike.

"I invited it. I think it is good. I think players have to take responsibility - but at the right moment," said Van Gaal, who confirmed he stood back at Anfield and allowed his players to have their say.

"I believe in corrections from fellow players. I think that is more important than a correction from a manager."

However it comes about, Van Gaal needs to hold on to the winning formula if he is to guide United, who entertain Southampton today, back into a top-four place and keep his destiny in his own hands.

United's performances and their poor run of results around Christmas weakened Van Gaal's position, although the Dutchman said yesterday he had no need to respond to speculation that he may choose to leave a year from the end of his contract in the summer.

Meanwhile, a report from France that United officials had met England-bound Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola was dismissed by the club.

"It's not interesting for me. The players play the game," said Van Gaal. "I think the pressure is a little bit gone but it will return if we lose against Southampton."

United's cause is not being helped by a spate of injuries, with Ashley Young their latest casualty. He is to have surgery on a groin injury sustained at Anfield and miss much of the rest of the season.

Young's injury is likely to see United sign a new full-back before the end of the month.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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