van Gaal: ‘Manchester United didn’t dare to play’

Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC /

Manchester United suffers another defeat as Louis van Gaal capitulates to the increasing pressure

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal was visibly frustrated in his post match remarks following the 2-0 loss to Stoke at the Britannia.

The loss marked the fourth consecutive defeat across all competitions and the third consecutive loss in the Premier League. Manchester United have accrued a measly two points of the 15 available in the last five league matches, sending them to sixth in the table – level on points with Watford.

The Red Devils didn’t impose their will on the match, letting Stoke go ahead by two goals en route to a comfortable result. The attackers struggled to create chances, aside from Marouane Fellaini’s short-range attempt that was saved by Butland, and the defense could have easily conceded more goals.

Manchester United’s manager was acutely aware of his side’s struggles in the match. Speaking to MUTV after the loss, van Gaal addressed his team’s performance:

"“My thoughts are that we didn’t dare to play football in the first half and then we gave a very bad goal away. That was too much. They scored from a free-kick and then it was half-time. We have spoken with each other and I have to say the second half was much better, we created one or two chances and you have to score. Then the belief is coming back and we played better in the second half, but the problem is we didn’t dare to play. That is my analysis.”"

If that is the case, that the players didn’t give their best effort, it comes at the worst time. As reports had heavily stated prior to the match, the Manchester United board had given van Gaal two matches to save his season – Stoke and Chelsea. With the defeat on Boxing Day to Stoke, the pressure will only increase on the Dutchman to right the ship, though it may already be too late.

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For his part, van Gaal has acknowledged that he may not be the right man for the job. The 64 year old commented on the increased pressure and his ability to cope:

"“That is now the big issue, I have tried to do everything but the pressure shall be higher and higher with every match. That is the problem now. It is more difficult because I am also part of the four matches we have lost so people are looking at me and I have to deal with that, but more importantly the players have to deal with that because they are the ones who have to perform.”"

Surprisingly, it seems as though van Gaal tried to shift some of the blame to the players not performing up to expectations, but the manager is ultimately at fault in providing the team selection. There were a couple of question marks in the starting XI, particularly playing Young and Fellaini again after their struggles last week. Of course, as van Gaal pointed out, the decisions are based off of training during the week:

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"“I am always very faithful [to the players] and I see also how they have trained, they wanted to perform well but the circumstances are also difficult. It is not only the circumstances with the wind but also with the pressure [on the players]. That is in my opinion the reason why they didn’t dare to play football. In the second half we were in a losing position and then you can give everything more easily. That is what we have done.”"

Considering Manchester United’s possession based approach, the wind shouldn’t have been a factor in their performance. Additionally, Stoke had to deal with the same conditions and managed to get two goals on the score sheet, though Memphis contributed to the first concession.

The team has already put the defeat in the rear view mirror as they will look to bounce back against Chelsea after a short turnaround. The team will likely have their current manager for the match, though it could be a different story if they cannot get the win. The manager expressed his concern to MUTV about the short recovery time:

"“You can say we can quickly get revenge for this defeat against Chelsea but in the time in between, you have to recover because the players have given everything and then you have to manage that you are very confident to start the game, and that you dare to play our football – our football! It is very difficult to do that in just two days but we shall try.”"

Next: van Gaal tried to provide confidence

Louis van Gaal will need his team at full health and confidence ahead of the match if he wants to secure a victory, though it might be a minor consolation if his fate has already been sealed.