Louis van Gaal admits it is hard to defend himself from critics

Man United drop into Europe League after Wolfsburg loss

Louis van Gaal has admitted it is hard to defend himself after Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages. Photograph: Reuters

Louis van Gaal has admitted it is hard to defend himself after Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages. Photograph: Reuters

 

Louis van Gaal admitted it was hard to defend himself from growing criticism of his management after Manchester United’s exit from the Champions League left him facing more scrutiny about the team’s lack of progress.

United’s 3-2 defeat in Wolfsburg means they will drop into the Europa League with Van Gaal facing a new wave of questions about whether the most expensively assembled squad in English football should be doing significantly better.

“At the moment I cannot defend myself because we are out of the Champions League,” he said. “Every word I say is the wrong word. When you see the facts we went further in the Capital One Cup, we qualified for the Champions League group and we have played all these matches and we are still in a very good position in the Premier League. The facts do say we are better than last year. That’s my answer because I can only give facts. But I’m also disappointed that we are out of the Champions League.”

Anthony Martial had given United an early lead but the Wolfsburg centre-half Naldo equalised shortly afterwards before Vieirinha gave the Bundesliga team a half-time lead. Josuha Guilavogui’s own-goal briefly looked like putting United into the knockout stages but Naldo almost immediately restored Wolfsburg’s lead and PSV Eindhoven’s 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow meant they qualified behind the Germans as Group B runners-up.

“It was a crazy match,” Van Gaal said. “Two times we gave away a goal within two minutes of scoring and that’s difficult to understand when we defend so well normally.

“This was a tight group so I do not agree that this was an easy group. Now it’s over. I’ve said to the players: ‘You cannot show your qualities any more in the Champions League. It’s the highest podium and you can’t do that. You have to wait until next year.’ It’s a pity but we have a lot to fight for – the FA Cup and the Premier League.”

A bad night for Van Gaal was compounded by injuries to Chris Smalling and Matteo Darmian and the United manager admitted he was unhappy with Bastian Schweinsteiger’s performance. “I have changed [SUBSTITUTED]him. I don’t change players for nothing. We’re all human beings and he is just a human being. But I cannot say that today this was the Schweinsteiger I had at Bayern Munich.”

Van Gaal’s own performance is also open to question and there was fierce criticism from several former United players. “They didn’t deserve to qualify,” Rio Ferdinand said. “You expect Man United to walk through. When you think of the money they have spent you can understand the fans’ frustrations. The pressure is growing on Louis van Gaal now.”

Paul Scholes, a serial critic of the United manager, went even further. “There was no urgency, threat or quality,” he said. “United are just an average team and with an average team you get average performances. You have to say they have not bought as well as they could have done. If you are relying on a 20-year-old kid [MARTIAL], it’s just not right.”

Michael Owen, another member of BT Sport’s punditry team, added: I think he [VAN GAAL]is under severe pressure now. His position in the league is keeping him afloat but there must be huge questions.”

(Guardian service)

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