Louis van Gaal admits he is losing the battle to convince Manchester United fans he is the right man to drag the club out of their worrying predicament.
A poisonous atmosphere took hold at Old Trafford on Saturday after Van Gaal’s side slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Southampton.
As soon as Charlie Austin nodded in his 87th-minute winner, some United fans started hurling abuse at Van Gaal in the home dugout.
Despite the best efforts of the Old Trafford PA system, boos reverberated around the stadium following the final whistle and the Dutchman was targeted by fans in the Stretford End and South Stand as he headed down the tunnel.
It was not an enjoyable experience for the United manager or executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who fixed his eyes on Van Gaal from the directors’ box after the final whistle.
There was no immediate indication from the United hierarchy that Van Gaal would lose his job. Woodward has invested a lot in the 64-year-old and has been fiercely determined to see him succeed.
Van Gaal refused to say whether he would resign in a post-match briefing.
“This question, I shall never answer to you,” the United manager snapped.
The main question facing Woodward is: how long can this continue? Van Gaal’s claim that United were back in the title race following their 1-0 win over Liverpool last week now seems fanciful.
They are now five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham in the Barclays Premier League standings with 15 matches left.
Van Gaal accepts he is failing to deliver attractive football and convince the fans he is turning things around.
“I’m very disappointed that I cannot reach the expectations of the fans,” the United manager said.
“They have – or they had – great expectations of me, and I cannot fulfil them, so I am very frustrated because of that.”