Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has suggested that a lavish public endorsement from his predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson has put him under pressure to deliver results for the club.
Ferguson this week said to the Dutchman: “I don’t know how he can expect to be getting the best results with the injuries he’s had” and Van Gaal – whose side are five places higher than David Moyes’ United were last Christmas – claimed that backing has boosted his own self-esteem.
“You hope – because I know Sir Alex- you hope that he shall support you,” Van Gaal said. “He showed a lot of confidence and belief in me and that I need as trainer coach. As manager of Manchester United you need belief and support of managers, such as Sir Alec but also [Sir] Bobby Charlton and [former chief executive] David Gill. They have the belief and I’m happy with that, then you can work in an easier way. But it is also a pressure because he believes in you and it gives you that pressure that you have to get results. It is not so easy to win the Premier League matches.”
Van Gaal has actually displayed none of the pressure to meet Ferguson’s expectations that Moyes revealed last season and displayed distinctly less need to acknowledge “Ferguson” – as he has described him. Though his United side have picked up only four points more this season than they did under Moyes in the equivalent 17-game start to the 2013/14 campaign, he has inculcated a confidence to play with expression at Old Trafford.
“We want to build a fortress at Old Trafford but we have made that already because we have won a lot,” said Van Gaal, who cut a relaxed figure as he drank a beaker of red wine and wished the United press corps both “best wishes” and “love” for Christmas. “But then we have to continue because seven [wins] is too few I think. So we have to continue and that’s the most difficult point because it is not easy to win games in the Premier League.”United host Newcastle on Boxing Day
United face Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, with Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Luke Shaw and Marco Rojo still all missing and only Chris Smalling possibly in contention to return – contingent on how he trains today.
Van Gaal refused to discuss whether Adnan Januzaj might leave on loan next month after only four starts this season or a Sunday newspaper report that United wanted to rekindle their 2013 interest in Gareth Bale. He said he was aware of United’s impressive record in Boxing Day fixtures, which actually exceed all other Premier League sides. They have won 19 of the 22 games they have played on the day in the Premier League era, drawing twice and losing only to Middlesbrough in 2002
The manager said he thought teams were showing less ambition when they came to Old Trafford. “Maybe that’s true but they can play how they want because that is their right I’ve always said that, that’s why it’s more difficult,” he said.
“My record in away matches are not so bad when you compare it with my home matches as a trainer/coach. Away [from home] the teams are more open but here they want to defend which is why it’s more difficult. That’s why we want to create a certain playing style where we can dominate. We are dominating for 45/60 minutes we must do it for 90 minutes.” United face a challenging Christmas and New Year, with visits to Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United to follow.