Louis van Gaal faced the media in combative mood after Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat at Stoke City in Boxing Day’s early game, accusing his side of being too nervous to play properly in the first half and saying that the decision to leave Wayne Rooney out of the starting lineup was the correct one, before dismissing headlines based on ‘rubbish’.
The Dutchman told Sky Sports: “My thoughts are that we don’t dare to play football in first half. We gave a very bad goal away and then they score out of a free-kick indirect.
“At half-time we have spoken with each other and I have to say the second half was much better but still we have created one or two chances and then you have to score and then maybe the belief is coming back. In the second half we played better but the problem is we don’t dare to play and that’s my analysis.
Manchester United’s Memphis Depay makes a weak header under pressure from Glen Johnson leading to what Louis van Gaal called ‘a very bad goal’ for Stoke City. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
“I’m always very faithful and I see also how they have trained so they want to perform well but the circumstances are difficult, not only the wind but also with the pressure and that’s why, in my opinion, we don’t dare to play football. Second half we were in a losing position and we can give everything more easily and that we have done but then you have to score the first chance.”
When asked if he was the man to help United rediscover their form, he said: “It’s more difficult because I’m also a part of the four matches that we have lost. People are looking at me and I have to deal with that, but much more important is that the players have to deal with that because they have to perform.”
On his future he added: “It’s another situation. We have lost the fourth game so you have to wait and see.”
When Van Gaal spoke to the BBC, he was asked about Rooney spending the first 45 minutes on the bench and the continuing speculation about his future. “I thought it was the right decision [to omit Rooney] otherwise I would not have done it.” Rooney came on at the break for Memphis Depay, whose error led to Stoke’s first goal.
Asked about the speculation over his future, Van Gaal added: “I don’t think that is interesting what they [the headlines] do to me. I have said they have to stick by the facts. The scrutiny is all right for me, I’m used to that. You have to stick by the facts and not rubbish.
“I have received it [backing of club] all the time but we have lost today so there is a new situation. I feel the support of my players and my board. The fans will be disappointed but that is logical after four defeats.”