Football: Van Gaal at a loss to explain run of defeats

United's David de Gea has no answer to Bournemouth's first goal, from Junior Stanislas (not pictured), in the 2-1 defeat on Saturday.
United's David de Gea has no answer to Bournemouth's first goal, from Junior Stanislas (not pictured), in the 2-1 defeat on Saturday. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Louis van Gaal was left reflecting on the toughest week of his 18 months in charge of Manchester United after England's richest football club suffered a shocking Premier League defeat at Bournemouth on Saturday.

The ever-confident Dutchman admitted he was not used to the indignity of successive losses as he oversaw a 2-1 defeat at Dean Court four days after Wolfsburg had dumped United out of the Champions League.

His struggling side have now gone five games without a victory in all competitions, two more than under predecessor David Moyes.

Yet van Gaal again shrugged off the growing discontent, saying he was used to it.

But when asked by the BBC if last week had represented his worst in English football, he conceded: "Yes, I'm not losing matches in a row very much, so it's very tough."

A goal down after less than two minutes when goalkeeper David de Gea made a hash of an inswinging Junior Stanislas corner which sailed directly into the net, injury-hit United appeared to regain some stability when Marouane Fellaini equalised. But van Gaal was left to bemoan how his reshuffled, inexperienced backline failed to pick up on Bournemouth's clever second-half corner routine, leaving United old boy Josh King unmarked to rifle home the winner.

"I had the feeling we could win but (on) the second set play, they scored again and then it is very difficult to equalise because Bournemouth are fighting together and pressing always," van Gaal said.

Yet, for the second game running, United fans have been bemused by the Dutchman's substitutions. Against Wolfsburg, he replaced Juan Mata - the provider of a goal for Anthony Martial, and his most creative player - in the 69th minute when United were trailing.

Van Gaal was widely criticised for bringing on Nick Powell, who had not played for United's first team for 16 months, at Mata's expense. On Saturday, he opted to bring on Powell again, when Fellaini came off with 15 minutes left with United chasing the game. And in stoppage time, defender Phil Jones came on for Paddy McNair.

Having asked youngster Andreas Pereira to replace the injured Jesse Lingard in the first half, the experienced Ashley Young - deemed good enough to keep British record signing Angel di Maria on the bench last season - was unused.

Van Gaal's decisions to let strikers James Wilson (on loan) and Javier Hernandez leave the club are also back in the spotlight. While United have one fit striker in Martial, Wilson scored his second goal in as many games for Championship leaders Brighton and Hernandez netted a hat-trick for Bayer Leverkusen to extend his scoring run to 15 goals in the last 12 games.

Bournemouth were not complaining. United's worst week was their best. Days after beating champions Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, Eddie Howe and his men claimed another major scalp.

Howe had special praise for midfielder Harry Arter, who played for 86 minutes just days after his partner lost a child at birth. "For us it's been a brilliant week, but the preparation for this game was difficult with the news of Harry Arter and his family," he said. "I want to pay tribute to how courageous he was. I thought he was magnificent."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'Van Gaal at a loss to explain run of defeats'. Print Edition | Subscribe