Football: I can't afford to lose, says Manchester United manager van Gaal

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal looking dejected after the 2-3 loss to Wolfsburg in their Champions League group match.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal looking dejected after the 2-3 loss to Wolfsburg in their Champions League group match.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

United manager knows his team must start winning or he may face the same fate as Mourinho

LONDON • Louis van Gaal is surprised by Jose Mourinho's sacking but admits that Manchester United must get back to winning ways after two straight losses or it will be the "end of the world" for him too.

The Red Devils are on a poor run, having not triumphed in their previous five matches and were knocked out of the Champions League.

They have scored only four times, with the last victory being a 2-1 success at Watford on Nov 21.

Van Gaal is conscious that, while he retains the backing of the club's executives, all managers live or die by results.

"I have the full confidence of my board and my players, that is what I feel," he said yesterday.

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"That is like that but we have to get results. We know that.

"There is no doubt that we have to win because when you lose too much, then even for me, it is the end of the world."

The Dutchman did not expect Mourinho to be given the boot by Chelsea: "What I can say, it was a big surprise for me, I didn't expect that," said van Gaal. "A fantastic manager with a record that nobody has but it is still possible.

"What is important is what I've said last week. The main thing is always the results. Second, the chemistry between the players and manager and his staff. I cannot judge what was happening in Chelsea but I was very surprised."

He said he knows no manager is safe. "It's like that but we know that in advance. Jose knows that also."

Despite his side's uneven form, van Gaal maintained team spirit is strong. "Yes, it's fine," he said.

"But I've said already more than once, I have seen articles that it's not like that. It's a bit crazy, I think, but that is this world."

Wayne Rooney could return for Norwich City's visit to Old Trafford today, having missed three matches due to a foot problem. If he features, it will be the captain's 500th appearance for United.

"Rooney hasn't played for two weeks so it's possible he can play," said van Gaal. "We have other players who have trained only one day then it's too much risk normally, but in these circumstances, you have to take risks," he added, in reference to the club's long injury list.

Chris Smalling has trained for a full week and is in contention too.

Van Gaal is clear of the need of a win over Norwich. "Every game has its own pressure, every week you have to do it in different circumstances," he said.

"What is the same is the preparation, we always prepare very good according to the qualities of our opponents and our game plan.

"The players apply that and do their best, that is the most important thing. We hope to give the result that everybody is expecting."

Six points below leaders Leicester City and four and three points respectively behind Arsenal and Manchester City, who face off on Monday, United can scarcely afford another non-performance.

Today's game marks the start of a sequence of four games over the Christmas period which are vital to their prospects of challenging for a first league title since 2013.

Norwich will kick off in the bottom three after Newcastle United's 2-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend bumped them into the relegation places.

But they took heart from a vastly improved second-half display in their 1-1 draw with Everton, who could have been four or five goals to the good at half-time.

"The disappointing thing for me is, with this squad, we should have more points on the board," said manager Alex Neil.

"We as a group are more than capable if we play as well as we can, of putting back-to-back wins together." THE GUARDIAN,

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'I can't afford to lose: Van Gaal'. Print Edition | Subscribe