LONDON • Louis van Gaal has blamed criticism from Paul Scholes for influencing Manchester United's fans against him, but said he would not dream of asking Ryan Giggs to try and silence his Class of '92 team-mate.
The United manager said he had been used to his methods coming under fire since he first started at Ajax but he said his problem with Scholes was that, as a respected former player, the Englishman was helping create a negative atmosphere among supporters.
"I have always coped with that kind of thing," van Gaal told The Independent. "Barcelona is a very critical environment, because the result and the performance is very important. In England, it is more the result than performance, only when Paul Scholes started he influenced a certain amount of fans."
Scholes' friend Giggs sits next to van Gaal on the bench at United where he has notably kept his own counsel about the manager's methods but the Dutchman said he would never think of asking his No. 2 to intercede on his behalf.
"No, I don't think that I have to give Ryan stress in his friendship with Scholes," he said. "I have managed all of my career, so it would not be good or honest of me to ask Ryan to say something.
"What Scholes is thinking, he has to think it. Every human being can give his opinion. I don't bother about that, I think it is good. But my problem is when you create an atmosphere, a very negative atmosphere for somebody, so maybe he should be more positive."
But van Gaal has wider concerns than being accused of having a team who look bored by a disgruntled television pundit, with rumours swirling around Old Trafford that Jose Mourinho - who coached with him at Barcelona - is being lined up to replace him.
The Dutch manager said the club had not said anything to him and he is under the assumption they had not contacted the former Chelsea manager over his job.
"I have not said that we have spoken, but he is my friend, so there you go," van Gaal said. "But I don't know if Manchester United have spoken with Mourinho or not.
"I think that if they (United) speak with another manager, they would tell me because our relationship is like that. I not only have a strong relationship with Ed (Woodward, executive vice-chairman), but also with the (owners) Glazers."
Some of the Dutchman's concerns could disappear today as his men face the worst defence in the Premier League.
Sunderland have conceded 49 goals this season - the main reason Sam Allardyce's side find themselves in relegation trouble. However, their record at the Stadium of Light is not as troubling, with only 13 goals conceded on home turf.
But the Black Cats are evidently vulnerable and United will bid to keep their prospects of Champions League qualification alive. They go into the game six points off the top four with fit-again defender Phil Jones likely to return.
Sunderland have not beaten United at home in the league for almost 19 years and Allardyce says they will have to win more games in their final 13 matches than they have in their previous 25 to have any hope of staying up.
Second-bottom Sunderland have five league victories so far. Allardyce, whose side fought back to draw 2-2 at Liverpool last weekend, believes it will take six more to bridge the four-point gap to safety as they bid to extend their nine-season stay in the top flight.
SUNDERLAND V MAN UNITED
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