Louis van Gaal has confessed he does not know if he will still be Manchester United manager should he fail to lead his team to a top four finish in the current campaign.
The Dutchman seems to have steadied the ship since the turn of the year with only one defeat in eight games although the likelihood of securing a top four finish, and with it the lucrative place in the Champions League, still seems distant.
But with speculation consistently surrounding his future – and the shadow of Jose Mourinho never far from discussions about the Old Trafford job – van Gaal is clearly not able to guarantee his survival should his team miss out on the lucrative Champions League places.
“It is not a question for me, I think,” said van Gaal. “It is a question of the board of Manchester United, you have to put that question to them. I have a contract for three years.”
However, despite the uncertainty surrounding his position in charge of the club, van Gaal does not expect any clarification from his employers over his status.
Van Gaal has spoken of his strong relationship, not only with executive vice chairman Ed Woodward but also with American owners the Glazers, and does not feel they need to respond to speculation over whether or not he will see out the third and final year of his United contract.
“No,” said van Gaal. “I do not agree because I have said many, many times that – not all the media, of course – but a lot of the media is inventing stories and we don’t have to answer invented stories. I agree with this policy of the club.”
– ‘Mentally strong’ –
United have responded to the disaster of a home defeat to Southampton last month, which resulted in outright hostility from Reds’ supporters, with two wins and a draw and still retain interest in two cup competitions and the United manager believes his players are handling the pressure well given the turmoil around the club and surrounding his own job security.
“I have to say that we are doing great in that respect,” he said. “Because we have lost four matches in a row in December but when you see us playing now you can only say that we are mentally very strong.
“We can cope with the pressure but that is not enough. We have to improve our results and consistency and we have to win a lot of matches in a row now because we have to minimise the gap between us and our competitors.”
However, the veteran United manager is not inclined to make a prediction about how many of their remaining matches United will have to win if they are to bridge that gap to the four leading clubs.
“It’s also dependent on your competitors,” said van Gaal.
“At the end of the competition the pressure is rising for everybody. Then you have to cope with that pressure and Manchester United is more or less used to that pressure.”