Van Gaal calls for unity rather than mutiny at Old Trafford

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal leaves Old Trafford on Saturday after the defeat to Southampton
Picture by PA 
Paul Hirst

LOUIS VAN GAAL called on Manchester United fans to rally round their team despite yet another disappointing defeat.

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman piled pressure on his old foe by beating United 1-0 on Saturday thanks to Charlie Austin's 87th-minute winner. A poisonous atmosphere took hold at Old Trafford after the final whistle, with supporters from the Stretford End and South Stand heckling Van Gaal as he walked along the touchline before he disappeared down the tunnel.

Boos also reverberated around the stadium at half-time after United failed to score in the first period of a home match for the 11th consecutive game. The message was clear - Van Gaal is no longer wanted by some United fans and they are becoming increasingly unhappy with the slow, dour football that is often on display at Old Trafford.

The United manager understands the fans' angst, but claims now is the time for unity rather than mutiny: "They are right [to boo]. I cannot deny that," Van Gaal said.

"I have seen the match also and I cannot deny it but, also, in better or for worse, you have to stick together."

It was not just the fans who started turning on Van Gaal on Saturday. Former United midfielder Bojan Djordjic broke ranks while on punditry duty in the MUTV studios at Old Trafford, describing the result as "dreadful".

"For so many weeks, the fans are clapping him off and it just grows, the frustration, and this was the final straw," he added.

"The only corner we are turning is into some dark alley where we get robbed again."

Djordjic's frustration - and that of the 70,000 plus United fans inside Old Trafford - was understandable. Daley Blind registered United's first and only shot on target in the 13th minute and, thereafter, the hosts put on a dull display, regularly shuffling the ball sideways and backwards rather than forward.

United fans had seen enough by the time two desperate long punts up field went awry and they responded with loud boos and chants of "attack, attack, attack." Van Gaal suggested his players were struggling to deal with the demands of playing for such a high-profile club.

He added: "You have to meet expectation and that expectation is very high, and that gives a lot of pressure for the players.

"We are working very hard but, also, we have a lot of injuries and that I cannot change with words. It's also a lot of bad luck when you have five full-backs injured, so you cannot prevent that."

The latest full-back to fall victim to United's injury curse was Matteo Darmian, who went off in the second-half while spitting blood following an aerial collision with Shane Long. Van Gaal felt the loss of Darmian, and the withdrawal of the ineffective Marouane Fellaini at half-time, left his side vulnerable to aerial assaults and he was proven right when debutant Austin headed in James Ward-Prowse's free-kick seven minutes after coming off the bench.

"I had the fear because they could only score from set plays as they didn't create other chances and our defence in set plays was weaker because I changed Fellaini and had to change Darmian, so every change meant we were weaker in set plays," he said.

"That was my fear, but I wanted to win this game also, that is why I changed Cameron Borthwick-Jackson for Adnan Januzaj. He could have scored, but that is the risk you take. We didn't create so much and our opponent didn't create so much, so it was more like a 0-0 game but, at the end, we have lost."

United are now five points behind Tottenham in the hunt for Champions League qualification with 15 matches to go.

Southampton recently went on a run of one win in 10, but they are now four points adrift of the Red Devils and Ronald Koeman is full of confidence after Austin's stunning debut: "It's sometimes strange to explain why you lose four or five in-a-row and why, now, you win three in-a-row, but that's football," the Saints boss said.

"It's difficult to understand sometimes, but we need to keep the spirit and our level. Now, we have big competition in our squad and I have to make difficult decisions." 

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