Louis van Gaal losing run of things at Old Trafford

Senior players at Manchester United talk up manager but don’t play along his lines

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal after his side’s 2-0 English Premier League defeat to Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on St Stephen’s Day. Photograph: Paul Ellis/Getty Images.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal after his side’s 2-0 English Premier League defeat to Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on St Stephen’s Day. Photograph: Paul Ellis/Getty Images.

 
Chelsea

Following the St Stephen’s Day’s 2-0 loss at Stoke City, Van Gaal, 64, suggested he could resign, but the decision may be taken for him by Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, if Chelsea win.

The reverse at the Britannia Stadium was United’s fourth in a row and a seventh game without a victory. It is 54 years since they last suffered four consecutive defeats and they have won only three times in their last 15 games. They now lie sixth in the Premier League, nine points behind the leaders, Leicester City.

Van Gaal dropped the captain, Wayne Rooney, from his starting XI at Stoke, the first time the manager has done so in a league fixture, but the decision backfired because United were 2-0 down by the interval following the poorest half of football since Van Gaal became manager in July 2014. Rooney came on for the second half and United played better.

Senior players

Phil JonesMichael Carrick

When asked if he had no ideas left of how to raise his squad for Chelsea’s visit, Van Gaal said: “No. But it’s not so easy any more. When you lose four matches in a row, it’s much more difficult than after the third match. It’s like that and the pressure of the environment should increase. So it is much more difficult. There are no ways, artificial ways, to solve that.

“We need a victory and that’s very important, but we also have to do our professional work, our preparation and of course the recovery and training sessions. We only can recover, we cannot train. We have to recover and then we play the match against Chelsea. It is very difficult to do that in just two days but we shall try.”

Despite the poor form Van Gaal claimed his players still believe in him. “Until now, I can say yes,” he said.

Chelsea are not without their own problems. They sacked José Mourinho under a fortnight ago and are only two points above the relegation zone after Saturday’s draw with Watford. But Van Gaal knows the champions will provide tough opposition.

“It’s very difficult because we have to recover,” he said. “We have to start after our bus trip [home], and we have to prepare also for the game. It’s very tough to do that, I’m aware of that.”

Van Gaal believes the squad is being stifled by the relentless focus on the club. “I have seen that in my other jobs,” he said. “When you lose in a top team, then it is always more difficult to cope with your environment and you cannot say that in Manchester it is much more different. You see that different players cope with that pressure differently. It is, for every individual player, for every human being, different, how they want to cope with it, and it is not so easy.”

As a coach, he has won domestic championships at each of his four previous clubs. Despite the dire recent results he denied his oft-mentioned “philosophy” is not working at United.

“There has been progression,” he said. “A month ago we were first in the Premier League. But we lost important games and now we have to come back, in more difficult situations than last season. We were there and we have fallen back. And that’s different. Everybody is judging differently, and that is what’s happening now, and you have to cope with it.” Guardian Service

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