LOUIS van Gaal said that he could jump before he is pushed after his position as Manchester United manager became even more precarious following a fourth successive defeat.
The under-fire Dutchman, 64, looked like a condemned man throughout United’s sorry 2-0 loss to Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday and then in the inquest that took place afterwards.
When grilled about the firestorm of speculation surrounding his likely sacking and the possible appointment of Jose Mourinho, Van Gaal intimated that he may be about to walk away from a job that has undergone a dramatic downturn in fortunes in the past month.
While refusing to confirm or deny whether he has received assurances from the United board, he did state: “I have said already in former press conferences that it is not always that the club has to fire or sack me. Sometimes I do it by myself.
I am the one who wants to speak first with the board of Manchester United, with my members of staff, with my players and not always you (the media).” On top of that, Van Gaal failed to give a convincing answer when asked whether he would still be in charge for United’s next game against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Monday.
“You will have to wait and see, but I think so,” he said. “I feel the support of everybody in the club.” United have slipped to sixth in the Premier League after three consecutive defeats — the second such sequence under Van Gaal — and were knocked out of the Champions League after a 3-2 loss at Wolfsburg earlier this month.
Pre-match media reports suggested Van Gaal was one defeat away from the sack and the 64-year-old Dutchman saw his team’s run of games without a win extended to seven at a windswept Britannia Stadium.
A weak back header from Memphis Depay enabled Glen Johnson to tee up Bojan Krkic for Stoke’s opener in the 19th minute and Marko Arnautovic brilliantly slammed home the hosts’ second goal seven minutes later after Bojan’s free-kick hit the wall.
While Stoke, managed by former United striker Mark Hughes, teased and tormented the visitors on the pitch, the home fans goaded Van Gaal with chants of “Jose Mourinho!” as the game wound down.
Van Gaal was rooted to his dugout seat throughout the 90 minutes and looked a shell-shocked figure as he walked away at the final whistle, pausing briefly to wave to the travelling supporters.
Stoke took the game to United from the off, with Xherdan Shaqiri and Arnautovic causing particular problems.
Depay’s blunder enabled Stoke to go ahead, with Johnson seizing on the Dutch winger’s disastrous header and squaring for Bojan, who threaded a shot through the legs of United defender Phil Jones on the line.
Stoke’s second goal was a spectacular long-range strike from the right boot of Arnautovic.
When Bojan’s free-kick cannoned against the United wall, it broke for the enigmatic Austrian, who produced a 20-yard thunderbolt for his sixth goal of the season.
Arnautovic then had a wonderful chance to put the game out of United’s reach when he broke the off-side trap in latching onto Bojan’s astute pass, but with only David de Gea to beat, he dragged his shot wide.
It was no surprise that Van Gaal acted at halftime by bringing on Rooney for the ineffective Depay.
Rooney must have thought he had thrown his side a lifeline when he cut the ball back for the unmarked Marouane Fellaini, but from eight yards out the Belgian was thwarted by a one-handed save from Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland.
Although Stoke failed to hit the heights of their first-half display, they continued to look the more threatening going forwards, with De Gea making crucial saves to prevent both Arnautovic and Bojan getting on the scoresheet again.