Louis van Gaal hints at quitting Manchester United
Louis van Gaal will speak to the Manchester United board before deciding whether to quit Old Trafford.
Van Gaal's future looks increasingly bleak after he suffered his fourth straight defeat as United manager.
United lost 2-0 at Stoke on Boxing Day and, although the margin of victory was narrow, there was a huge gulf between the two sides when it came to flair, penetration and skill.
Memphis Depay's embarrassing gaffe handed Bojan Krkic the chance to put Stoke ahead and he did not pass on the opportunity, stroking the ball into the net from Glen Johnson's pass, and when Marko Arnautovic sent a fierce drive into the top corner in the 26th minute, it was game over for Van Gaal's men.
Whether it proves to be the final nail in the coffin for Van Gaal himself remains to be seen. There was no word from the club in the immediate aftermath of the game on whether the Dutchman would remain in charge.
Louis van Gaal reveals he could quit following Stoke defeat ▶️ pic.twitter.com/HANgfPLVGZ— Man Utd Videos ⚽️ (@ManUtdVines) December 26, 2015
When asked whether he thought he would be in charge for Monday's Premier League game against Chelsea, Van Gaal offered only a meek response.
"You have to wait and see, but I think so," the United manager said.
Van Gaal did admit there was a "new situation" compared to Wednesday, when he said he had received supportive phone calls from executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, his predecessor David Gill and former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
The former Ajax manager then raised the possibility that he could walk away from the club.
"I can also quit by myself, but that is something that I speak with Ed Woodward by himself, and not with you," Van Gaal said in his post-match press conference.
"I have said already in former press conferences that the club has to fire or sack me. Sometimes I do it by myself, but I am the one who wants to speak first with the board of Manchester United and with my members of staff or with my players and not with you. I don't think that is the sequence."
Van Gaal rejected the idea that it would be better if Woodward backed him with a public statement.
"No," he said. "Because for me it's much more important that people are saying that to me.
"I am not so interested in public sayings."
The Dutchman admitted he had to take his share of the blame for United's longest winless streak since the 1989-90 season, however.
"I am part of the four losses," he said. "I have received (support) all the time, but we have lost today, so there is a new situation."
Van Gaal dropped Wayne Rooney for the game at Stoke, but there was no change in the quality of United's play. They never looked like troubling the Potters, whose fans mocked the opposition, branding them "boring" throughout.
The 64-year-old admitted his players froze when he needed them the most.
"In the first half we didn't dare to play our football," he said. "I have analysed that as a consequence of the pressure that you have to cope with as a group as an individual player.
"I have said to my players at half-time that we had nothing to lose and then you can cope better with that and you have seen that in the second half, but it was not good enough."
Van Gaal admitted it was a "difficult decision" to drop Rooney, but one the striker took as well as he could have.
"(He responded) like a very good professional," Van Gaal said.
Mark Hughes was surprised Van Gaal dropped Rooney for the first time during his 18-month spell as United boss.
"From our point of view a team without Wayne Rooney is a team that maybe isn't quite as strong, but maybe he wasn't fit enough to start," the Stoke manager said.
Having already beaten Manchester City and Chelsea this season, Hughes was happy to gain another big scalp.
"We gave a similar performance to the first half against Man City, who are a good team also, so we are delighted that we are able to do it again," said Hughes, who enjoyed 13 successful years on the playing staff at United.
"It is a feather in our cap. Against the elite teams in the league you have to be brave and go toe-to-toe and we showed that once again."