Louis Van Gaal insists he can deal with scrutiny after latest Manchester United defeat
Louis van Gaal insists he can deal with the scrutiny he will come under following his latest defeat as Manchester United manager.
Van Gaal is under mounting pressure after United lost four games in a row for the first time in a single season since 1961. Their latest reverse came at the Britannia Stadium, where Stoke eased to a 2-0 victory courtesy of goals from Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic.
The margin of victory may not have seemed great, but there was a telling gap in quality, desire and skill between the 20-time English champions and a club who not so long ago were being compared to a rugby team by Arsene Wenger.
Stoke have come a long way since the 'hoof it up to the big man' days of Tony Pulis, but even with the likes of Bojan, Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri in their side, they should not have been allowed to collect three points so easily.
Speculation swirled around Old Trafford earlier this week that Van Gaal was about to be sacked and replaced by Jose Mourinho.
More rumour and debate about Van Gaal's position will come in the next couple of days, particularly if United lose to Chelsea on Monday, but the embattled Dutchman has his iron shield up and is ready for what comes his way.
"The scrutiny is all right for me, I am used to that," the United manager said. At the start of the month, senior figures within the United hierarchy said they backed Van Gaal to see out the remaining 18 months of his contract.
But since then, United have crashed out of the Champions League and two of the best managers in the world - Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho - have become available.
Guardiola is not free to move until the summer, of course, but Mourinho is out of work now following his dismissal by Chelsea and is known to be interested in the United job should it become available.
Van Gaal admitted there may have been a sea change in the board's view of him in light of this latest defeat. "I have received that (support) all the time but we have lost today so there is a new situation," he said.
"But I feel the support of my players and my board and of course the fans shall be disappointed but that is logical after four defeats.
"I am also part of the four matches we have lost so people are looking at me and I have to deal with that but much more important is that the players have to deal with that because they have to perform."
Memphis Depay set the ball rolling for Stoke when he failed to execute the simplest of headed backpasses in the 19th minute. Glen Johnson stole in and squared to Bojan, who rolled the ball into the net.
Arnautovic then made sure of the win soon after with a fierce drive into the top corner. Van Gaal said after the match that his players were too scared of playing their best football, which is a startling admission given that this was hardly a Champions League final against Barcelona.
"We have lost the game in the first half because we didn't dare to play our football," Van Gaal said. "I said we have to play football at half-time and you have seen the difference, but that is not enough, you have to start in the first minute."
Van Gaal concedes it will be tough lifting his players for Monday's game against champions Chelsea. "That is now the big issue," Van Gaal added. "I try to do everything but every match the pressure shall be higher and higher and we have to solve that problem."
There was no indication from the club that Van Gaal would not be in charge for Monday's home game against Chelsea. It is understood the Dutchman oversaw a squad recovery session as planned at the club's training ground in Carrington on Sunday.