LONDON • Louis van Gaal has told Manchester United fans to take their frustrations out on him and not the players, whom he fears could be inhibited by their criticism.
United face West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford today having scored just one goal in their past four matches in all competitions.
Chants of "We're Man United, we want to attack" reverberated around Old Trafford on Wednesday, when United faced CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, a pointed reference to the largely sterile football the team have played under van Gaal.
The Dutch manager's decision to substitute Anthony Martial and bring on Marouane Fellaini in the 66th minute against CSKA was roundly booed, although the manager was ultimately vindicated with Wayne Rooney scoring 11 minutes from time as United won 1-0.
While van Gaal defended the fans' right to criticise the team, he urged them to direct any anger at him and not the players.
"I can only advise the fans to criticise the manager and not the players," he said. "It's very difficult to play for Manchester United with a lot of pressure, and all the yelling is not good for all my players.
"It's better to whistle at the manager. I can cope with it.
"I think the supporters have to support the players, otherwise they make it very difficult for the players to play at Old Trafford."
Van Gaal said he was happy how the team performed defensively and offensively against CSKA.
"We attacked 85 minutes of the 90 minutes so we have given a lot of entertainment," he said.
"When the goals are falling much faster, then everyone is happy.
"When you analyse the game, you know it's difficult to disorganise a team with 10 men behind the ball.
"When you have two teams who are attacking, it's more easy to score. That's why coaches play these tactics against us because they are counting always on the counter-attack.
"Nevertheless, CSKA tried this tactic but only created one chance so I was very happy with our defensive organisation and very happy with the way we attacked."
United played positively against CSKA but still lacked a cutting edge, and the impatience of the supporters will again be evident if the goals do not flow against Tony Pulis' defence-minded team today.
West Brom, who have won on their last two visits to Old Trafford, may not pose frequent problems for United's defence.
But the Baggies' deep-lying, counter-attacking football could again test their rivals' resolve.
Former United defender Jonny Evans said he expected van Gaal to win over the club's supporters.
Evans said: "Fans want to be successful, win games, but there's always that little feeling at the back of their head that they want to see nice, attractive football. Sometimes, it's not always possible.
"And against teams like Manchester United, teams do raise their game. He (van Gaal) is a very good manager and, with time, he will get it right."
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
MANCHESTER UNITED V WEST BROMWICH
Singtel TV Ch102 & StarHub Ch227, 11pm