Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says he expected the club’s fans to be “rising up” against him following a poor start to the season.
United lost their Premier League opener at home to Swansea City, before two uninspiring draws at Sunderland and Burnley and a League Cup humbling at the hands of the MK Dons left the club reeling heading into September.
And having experienced testing times at Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, three of his former clubs, Van Gaal was expecting a harsh reception from the Old Trafford faithful.
“The first feeling that I had was that after 11 matches and we had 13 points, I came in the stadium and thought the fans shall not be pleased, and they are rising up, [but] they are clapping their hands when I entered the stadium!
“With the other clubs… in Barcelona with the white handkerchiefs, in Munich and Amsterdam with the whistles, and here in Manchester they were applauding for the manager despite the few points. I felt not so happy because I was responsible for the results.”
Van Gaal also moved to keep his players’ egos in check, insisting that his side are “still not good enough”, but hopes performances will start to match their recent good run of results.
In a pre-recorded interview with United’s in-house television channel, MUTV, conducted after the 3-0 victory against Liverpool on December 14, he said there is reason to hope that his players will start living up to expectations given their winning run, which then stood at six and has now been extended to 11 matches without defeat.
The Dutchman claimed on Sunday that his team have “survived” the busy Christmas period following wins against Newcastle and Yeovil, plus draws on the road to Aston Villa, Tottenham and Stoke City, which leaves them with 37 points from 10 league matches and in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
And while he is pleased with his team’s progress and points haul, he says things are not yet to his liking.
“Nearly two points a match average, normally you are a champion at the end,” he said. “That amount of results I think for your first season is not bad at this time, but I think as a trainer coach, as a manager, I have to analyse the performances of my players because that is the most important thing, that shows how far we are in the process.
“That’s still not good enough in my opinion, and that’s what I’m saying a lot of times in press conferences after matches, but I hope we shall improve, and when we are having these results at this moment, with not the best performances… when we have the best performances, then we have hope.”
And when asked if his squad’s confidence was “sky high” following the run of six consecutive victories, the Dutchman was in typical form.
“Not sky high!” he replied. “I have a lot of criticism always in the evaluation of my players, so they are not all sky high, I think. But I have to admit that the atmosphere in the group is fantastic and we have a lot of confidence built up now.”