Louis van Gaal's tenure as Manchester United manager appeared ever more precarious yesterday after an astonishing outburst against the media.
an Gaal stormed out of his press conference, refused to answer any questions from the gathered news reporters and delivered a carefully calibrated assault on media integrity that lasted an uninterrupted five minutes.
"You are creating something that is not good," he said ahead of Saturday's match against Stoke City. "You have to stick by the facts. When I get calls of Alex Ferguson and David Gill and Ed Woodward because you are creating something that is not good, that is not being the facts and now I have to answer questions, I don't want to do it."
It was a very different performance from the swaggering self-confidence that the Dutchman had exuded when he arrived at United back in July 2014. Then he sauntered into one of Old Trafford's many corporate hospitality suites with the air of a man who wondered why it had taken the club so long to get round to appointing him.
Yesterday, in Carrington, he offered up something more akin to self-pity.
When he was asked whether he agreed with Arsene Wenger's observation that the talk about his future was disrespectful, Van Gaal paused before turning his withering disdain on to the room, demanding an apology for the preceding 24 hours of conjecture and hearsay in which it was widely reported he had been fired and replaced by Jose Mourinho.
"Has anyone in this room not a feeling to apologise to me?" he said. "That's what I'm wondering."
Though, since the speculation occurred on social rather than conventional media, it was unclear how the various newspaper and television reporters could be held responsible. Nevertheless, the manager's personal hurt at the whirlpool of supposition into which he had been plunged was all too evident.
"I think I was already sacked," Van Gaal went on.
"That's what I read. My colleague (Mourinho) was here already. What do you think that happens with my wife or with my kids or with my grandchildren or with the fans of Manchester United or my friends?"
"They have called me, a lot of times. Do you think I want to talk with the media now? I am here only because of the Premier League rules. I have to talk to you."
Although talk is a relative term. Van Gaal did not engage in dialogue, preferring to deliver a brief lecture about his position and ignore all pleas for the opportunity to present questions. One thing that he did do was to insist that he retained the full backing of the players.
"I have tried to lift the confidence of my players. I have done everything this week," he continued. "I hold meetings, evaluation meetings with the players, with my members of staff, I have held a Christmas lunch and I have held a speech.
"I feel the warmth and support of everyone at Carrington. But I didn't feel that from the media."
Even in his self-defence, however, Van Gaal accepted why it was that doubt was being widely expressed about his United future.
However, although he acknowledged that the recent slump in which his team have accrued just one point from their past three fixtures against West Ham, Bournemouth and Norwich had precipitated the rumours, he bullishly refused to concede that the position was irretrievable.
"You can write about that because we are not in a good position. Four weeks ago we were first in the Premier League and in about four weeks we can be again."
In order to do that he will have to engineer a significant improvement against a Stoke side who, in their previous home game, eviscerated Manchester City.
Right now, however, the statistics do little to support the suggestion that he is the man to engineer a turnaround.
With only one point more than David Moyes had gathered at the same point when he was in charge, Van Gaal is unable to argue that he has delivered any significant long-term improvement. Indeed his win percentage of 50.7pc after 71 games is marginally worse than that Moyes' record of 52.95pc after 51 in charge.
But what was clear was that Van Gaal was not about to walk out. Whatever the assumptions on Twitter, at Carrington he presented a resolute refusal to be cowed. He was absolutely determined that he would be in charge of the club for the foreseeable future.
"I only say now I am focused on Stoke City. I wish you a merry Christmas and also a happy new year when I see you again. Enjoy a wine and a mince pie."
He then walked out of the room, shaking his head in response to plaintive pleas that he might answer a few questions.
It was a defiant message. If his players can show a similar degree of belligerence against Mark Hughes' team then Van Gaal might well have a chance of being able to refuse media questions again. (© Daily Telegraph, London)