LONDON • Louis van Gaal admitted the furious reaction of Manchester United supporters to their side's dismal 1-0 defeat by Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday was the worst he has experienced in an increasingly turbulent season.
United failed to score at Old Trafford for the seventh time this term and were eventually beaten by a late headed goal from Southampton debutant Charlie Austin.
The Red Devils are now five points adrift of a top-four place in the Premier League and their dejected players trudged off with boos ringing in their ears at full-time.
Inevitably, beleaguered boss van Gaal was also subjected to renewed derision from disgruntled fans who have given the Dutchman plenty of abuse for his conservative tactics over the last few months.
That United have won just three of their last 13 games also means he has to accept that the criticism from fans was more vitriolic than ever.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Of course I am disappointed but I have to think and already I put the question how I can change this because we have to change this. That is my job and it's not an easy job at the moment.
LOUIS VAN GAAL, on Manchester United's poor performances.
"Yes, because it was very clear," he said. "I can imagine (why) also because I have seen a poor match.
"Of course I am disappointed but I have to think and already I put the question how I can change this because we have to change this.
"That is my job and it's not an easy job at the moment."
Yet, after another dull United performance, fresh questions are being asked as to how long more he can remain in the Old Trafford hot seat.
The hosts produced just one shot on target - a speculative first-half effort by Daley Blind - while forwards Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial had just two touches in the box between them.
Even though Jose Mourinho's agent yesterday ridiculed media reports that the Portuguese coach had written a six-page letter to United setting out why he should be their next manager, the pressure van Gaal is facing is unprecedented.
United have taken 37 points so far this season - their worst tally after 23 games in a Premier League season.
Van Gaal's 49.2 per cent win rate in the top flight is also worse than his predecessor David Moyes' (50 per cent).
If The Independent and ESPN are to be believed, Mourinho has heaped more pressure on the Dutchman by writing a come-and-get-me letter to United, outlining his credentials to succeed van Gaal.
The Independent on Sunday claimed Mourinho, out of work since parting ways with Chelsea in December, outlines in detail his blueprint to resuscitate the 20-time English champions.
According to the report, the 52-year-old used the letter to pledge his commitment to adapting his style of management and how he would overhaul the squad.
It is believed that United have been hesitant to appoint him as manager because of his tendency to attract controversy, his style of counter-attacking football and his lack of a track record for nurturing young players from the academy.
ESPN also reported that the Portuguese had undertaken a deep and detailed charm offensive - in the form of a letter - to convince United that he is their man.
But Mourinho's agent Jorge Mendes has hit out at the reports.
"It is absolutely ridiculous and totally absurd," he said.
If van Gaal was prepared to breathe a sigh of relief, former United chief executive David Gill ensured he would not be able to do so.
Gill, who remains a director at the club, has admitted that the current season under the Dutchman is one of underachievement, given the manager's £250 million (S$510.1 million) investment in the squad. While Gill would not be drawn on van Gaal's long-term future, he did admit United's fifth place is not good enough.
"Clearly we all hope the results will be better," he told the BBC. "(This is) undoubtedly a season of underachievement. I think everyone would agree with that, given the investment that was made."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN