No sackcloth and ashes for me, says defiant van Gaal

LONDON • Louis van Gaal went on the attack at his pre-FA Cup press conference on Thursday when asked to clarify if he had offered to resign after last weekend's defeat by Southampton, before admitting a similar result in this morning's (Singapore time) tie at Derby County could get him the sack.

"We cannot lose to a Championship club," he said.

Over the resignation issue, the Manchester United manager claimed he was being questioned about his future in a disrespectful way and complained his treatment by the media had been "awful and horrible", but perhaps significantly he did not offer a direct answer.

"I don't think I have mentioned that ever," the Dutchman said. "You make your own stories and I am concerned that people believe what you write. This is the third time I am sacked and I am still sitting here."

That may be how he feels, though there is a distinction between offering to resign and being sacked, one that van Gaal seems to be trying to blur.

And it remains true that the first person to mention the possibility of resigning, or walking away before waiting to be sacked, was the manager himself at the Britannia Stadium after the Dec 26 defeat by Stoke.

The Dutchman, who now says he never mentioned the subject of resignation, said then: "I can quit by myself."

A slight upturn in results in the new year put the matter on hold but a manager of van Gaal's immense experience ought to know that, if you place such a comment on public record, it will naturally resurface should performances take a turn for the worse.

The United manager accepted performances had dipped, though he cited injuries as a contributory factor to the side dropping out of the Premier League's top four, and agreed that fans had a right to make their feelings heard after the manner of the last defeat.

"It is always like that when you lose a game, especially in the last minute," he said. "If you play badly and win, you are not so fed up but you can also play well and lose, as we did at Chelsea last year, then you are more fed up than ever."

Although some United supporters at the end of the Southampton game looked as if they could not possibly be more fed up, they should brace themselves: Van Gaal has reiterated his intention to see out his three-year contract.

"Everybody knows I have signed here for three years," he said. "I have always said that it is not one game but a process. I want to continue until the end."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'No sackcloth and ashes for me, says defiant van Gaal'. Print Edition | Subscribe