LONDON • Louis van Gaal has stated that the atmosphere among his Manchester United players is too cordial and suggested the squad would benefit from being more critical of one another and of themselves.
Before his side's FA Cup third-round tie with Sheffield United this morning (Singapore time), the pressure on his position at the club had eased somewhat following a goal-less draw with Chelsea and last Saturday's 2-1 win over Swansea City - United's first victory in nine matches.
Asked if there had been a better mood at the club since the display against Chelsea, van Gaal said on Friday: "I don't think so. The atmosphere in our dressing room is very good. Maybe too good because they are always protecting the dressing room, their colleagues. That is very good until a certain height."
The implication of this is that the changing room can be a cosy environment. This is in contrast to the claim made by Gary Neville about United under Alex Ferguson.
Following a David de Gea mistake that handed Tottenham Hotspur a late equaliser at White Hart Lane, the former United captain said: "There is an incredible amount of accountability in that dressing room. It is not a place that is forgiving, it is not a place where you won't get people who will confront each other when mistakes are made."
The atmosphere in our dressing room is very good. Maybe too good because they are always protecting the dressing room, their colleagues. That is very good until a certain height.''
LOUIS VAN GAAL, implying that the current dressing room atmosphere is not ideal.
Van Gaal is clear how the lack of accountability in his team can be eradicated.
"We have also changed our approach to the players to make it easier to take responsibility," he said.
"We are trying everything to come to a solution but at the end, it always comes down to we are better than the opponents but we have to score goals.
"I have stimulated them to think about football. The game is a brain sport and now you can let them think with you and therefore you can change your approach and so the players take the (responsibility), for example for the game plan and other kinds of decisions and then the (responsibility) is higher and bigger.
"But we have to see how it shall work."
Van Gaal's position remains uncertain, despite the eagerness of United's board to give him more time to turn things around.
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON