Van Gaal defiant as criticism mounts ahead of FA Cup match
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — If Manchester United went on the attack in games as much as its manager does in news conferences, England’s biggest team may not be in such a rut.
On Thursday, a defiant Louis van Gaal criticized sections of the British media who reported this week he had offered to resign in the wake of United’s latest poor result — a 1-0 home loss to Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday.
“I think it’s awful and horrible,” said Van Gaal, who walked out of a news conference last month. “It’s the third time I’ve been sacked and I’m still sitting here.”
Lose to second-tier Derby in the FA Cup on Friday, and even Van Gaal acknowledges the scrutiny could be too much to take.
“Now I cannot lose anymore because I am condemned for the fourth time that I have been sacked,” Van Gaal said. “And maybe then you have written the truth, because sometimes it happens.”
Van Gaal was heckled by fans after the loss to Southampton, with United having won just three of its last 13 games and in fifth place in the Premier League. United’s style of football under Van Gaal is dull and risk-averse, and the supporters appear to have had enough.
The Dutchman said Thursday that he hadn’t offered to quit and the support of Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman, was “fantastic.”
“It gives you a lot of pressure because when the board has such confidence in you, the pressure is much higher than when they say it’s your last game,” Van Gaal said. “Then the confidence is not so high.”
United may be playing Derby just at the right time. It has won only one of its last six games — in the FA Cup third round — and has dropped off the top of the League Championship.
Derby is managed by Paul Clement, the former assistant manager at Real Madrid where he worked under Carlo Ancelotti. Clement said he might speak to Ancelotti before Friday’s game at Pride Park.
“I am not sure it will quite be a giant-killing if we get a good result,” Clement said. “It is a challenge we are really looking forward to, up against a team that is not in great form.”
Here are some other things to watch out for in the fourth round:
Arsenal’s injury crisis is finally relenting, with the return of holding midfielder Francis Coquelin the latest good news for manager Arsene Wenger.
Coquelin has been missing since the end of November because of a knee injury, and was expected to be out for three months. He has been back in full training for two weeks, however, and is available for the home match against second-tier Burnley on Saturday.
Winger Alexis Sanchez has also recently returned from injury, while Wenger said Thursday that forward Danny Welbeck “isn’t far off” a comeback after being out since April with a knee injury.
RELIEF FOR CARLISLE
Some good news for fourth-tier club Carlisle.
Floods that caused widespread damage to the north of England and Scotland in December took its toll on Carlisle’s Brunton Park pitch.
Carlisle has since had to play its “home” matches in different grounds in northern England, which cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Carlisle played its first match back at Brunton Park on Saturday, and hosts Premier League side Everton in the FA Cup on Sunday. It will be televised live, likely earning Carlisle 250,000 pounds ($360,000).
With the demise of Eastleigh in the third-round replays, there are no non-league teams left in the tournament.
It will be left to lower-league teams to provide the giant-killings.
Chelsea faces third-tier MK Dons while Tottenham heads to Colchester, which is in last place of the third tier.
There are two all-Premier League match-ups: Aston Villa vs. Manchester City and Liverpool-West Ham.