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‘Frustrated’ Van Gaal heads for United showdown

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Manchester United officials are reportedly on the verge of holding serious discussions on the future of manager Louis van Gaal after the club slumped to a 0-1 loss at home to Southampton, with the manager himself admitting he is frustrated by the lack of results.

Asked whether he still has the desire to continue, Van Gaal said: “This question I shall never answer.”

He has so far always said the fans were behind him, but the manner of his sending off at the final whistle against Southampton spoke volumes of what the fans thought of him.

United’s defeat, their first in 2016, ended with fans booing the manager as he headed towards the dressing room at full-time. Before this loss, United had gone five games in all competitions without defeat, including a 1-0 derby win against rivals Liverpool. But any progress and hopes of a United revival were scuppered when Charlie Austin headed past David De Gea, and the pressure was back on the 64-year-old.

“I’m very disappointed I cannot reach the expectations of the fans. They have, or they had, great expectations of me, and I cannot fulfil them, so I am very frustrated,” he said.

Now, reports in England suggest United officials will hold talks with Van Gaal this week to discuss his future.

The Red Devils are five points behind the fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, and the management believe United will be unable to keep pace with the pack on top. They are also concerned by the fact that a Champions League spot seems far from guaranteed.

And former chief executive David Gill’s comments will only add to the pressure.

“Clearly we all hope the results will be better – everyone’s disappointed, I feel as much as non-executive director as a fan,” Gill told the BBC. “This is undoubtedly a season of underachievement. I think everyone would agree with that given the investment that was made. Everyone there is working extremely hard to turn that round. It’s not easy.”

Yet Van Gaal argued that given he has spent £250m-plus United should be better. “We have also sold a lot of players,” he said. “But still, you know that when Manchester United is coming, we have to pay much more than another club, so that’s also an analysis, and it is not rubbish what I am saying.”

Gill was also critical of the playing style. “I’m not going to sit here and say it’s that attractive – for me, what we did in the past was great. You have to tell the players to do that. United, going back to the 50s under Matt Busby, have had that – and I started supporting when we had George Best. We want attractive football and I’m sure we will try to do that going forward.”

Gill would not answer if Van Gaal might be removed. “It’s not for me – I’m not the spokesperson for Man Utd. I’m not going to be drawn on those questions,” he said. “I’m not privy to the conversations. We had great success under Sir Alex Ferguson and we want that to continue. There’s great strength in the club, the deals that they’ve done has given a really stable base and everyone is working hard to bring back the success years. We all want that.”

Van Gaal agreed United should be playing better. “Yes, because we want to be in the top three, and we’re not in the top three, and now, after today, our competitors have won, so it’s a setback,” he said.

But he was unable to offer any explanation as to why United are so poor. “You cannot say it is that aspect or that aspect, because there are different aspects that play a role and we are not very lucky with our injuries,” he said. “But nevertheless, we had to win, and we could have won, but it is not happening.”

United’s poor performance this season has seen them linked with several top managers in recent weeks and months, with Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho both reportedly interested in the job. According to The Times, Mourinho is confident of taking the helm at Old Trafford.

Guardiola, too, has said his next challenge will be in England – a move to the Premier League in the summer is a given. He is said to have met United officials in Paris last week, but the club have denied the reports.

Next up for Louis Van Gaal and United is a fourth-round FA Cup game against Derby on Friday. An unfavourable outcome will surely nail the coffin shut.

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