LONDON • Manchester United scarves with Jose Mourinho's face woven into the fabric were sold outside Old Trafford on Monday. Yet, United manager Louis van Gaal sounded newly emboldened about his job security following Monday's 0-0 draw with Chelsea.
The Dutchman insisted that he retains the confidence of the club's board and has no reason to resign despite presiding over the club's worst league run since 1990.
"Will I resign? On the contrary. When the players can give such a performance with this lot of pressure then there is not any reason to resign for me," said van Gaal, altering his position since Saturday's defeat by Stoke City, after which he hinted that he could resign.
"I have a contract, so it is not a question of me staying. It is a question of fulfilling my contract. You have seen that the players are fighting for me.
"They have given a good performance and even after this result the fans were applauding. I have full confidence in the board and also more importantly in my players."
Against the champions, United showed, particularly in the first half, that they could remove the tactical straightjacket and play with width and penetration.
In the opening 16 minutes, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial both hit the woodwork as the hosts came close to making the breakthrough.
On the flipside, it shows how far the Red Devils have fallen when merely looking to attack, passing the ball forward, not sideways, is cause for quiet satisfaction; when a goalless result at home represents stopping the rot, as they avoided losing a fifth match in a row for the first time in 79 years.
HOLDING THE FORT
I have a contract, so it is not a question of me staying. It is a question of fulfilling my contract. You have seen that the players are fighting for me.
LOUIS VAN GAAL , saying that he will not resign
This was United's fifth stalemate in their past eight games in all competitions at Old Trafford. They have scored only three times in their past six league outings. And they failed to register a win in the whole of December.
Van Gaal insisted that United were unlucky not to beat Chelsea and claimed his side should have been awarded two penalties.
Willian appeared to handle the ball in the penalty area in the second half, while Mata went down under a heavy challenge from Cesar Azpilicueta.
"I am a little bit frustrated that we didn't score," van Gaal said after watching his side dominate possession with 65 per cent of the ball.
"We have chances, we have shots on the goal, the goalkeeper was beaten and we hit the post twice. And don't forget the two penalty cases."
The few signs of improvement have been sufficient to quieten talk that Mourinho will replace van Gaal at the helm.
The indications are that United are reluctant to make a change of manager mid-season.
That Mourinho's unchanging template of high-speed counter-attacking football is almost the opposite of van Gaal's ball-hogging tactics also counts against the Portuguese.
Asked whether the squad were still backing van Gaal, skipper Rooney said: "Of course. A lot of people say different things but we would be letting ourselves down if we didn't go out on to the pitch and give it our all.
"We wouldn't be professional players if we did that. We're having a tough time, everyone knows that, but we will keep fighting and come back."
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN