Manchester United vice-captain Michael Carrick insisted on Sunday that under-fire boss Louis van Gaal still commands the loyalty of the players and it is “disrespectful” to suggest otherwise.
Van Gaal is expected to be given the sack later on Monday if United lose to Chelsea at Old Trafford after a depressing four-game losing run, and six without a win, for the English giants which has seen them exit the Champions League and slip to sixth in the table.
United are now on their longest run without a win in 25 years. “It is a horrible run, and it is a horrible feeling. It hurts badly,” said Carrick.
“We can’t hide from it, we’re not going to hide from it. That is how it is and we all need to be better.
“It is a bit disrespectful when people say that the lads aren’t trying for the manager.
“We’re playing for this great club. It is a special club. It is pride in yourself, pride in the club and pride in everyone -- your team-mates and staff.”
Van Gaal oversaw training in Manchester on Sunday and could be boosted in Monday’s key clash by the return of German star midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger who has missed three games through suspension.
“When you lose four matches in a row it’s much more difficult,” admitted the 64-year-old van Gaal.
“It’s like that. And the pressure of the environment shall increase, so it’s much more difficult and there are no artificial ways to solve that. We need a victory and that is very important.”
Despite his mounting problems, the Dutchman backed Carrick’s view that the players and the manager are on the same page.
“A month ago we were first in the Premier League but we lost important games and now we have to come back in more difficult situations than last year because last year everyone believed and there was progression, now there is a fallback and that is different and everybody is judging also different,” he said.
“That is what is happening now and you have to cope with it.”
Should United fail to win on Monday, they will end the year with their lowest points total in 26 years.
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s interim manager Guus Hiddink, a compatriot of Van Gaal’s, leapt to the defence of another Dutchman in the firing line -- United midfielder Memphis Depay.
Depay was substituted in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Stoke but Hiddink, who worked with the youngster during his time in charge of the Dutch national team, insists he will come good.
“He’s very young. When he was in Holland he was one of the star players, at a very young age,” said Hiddink.
“There is a lack of star players in Holland who are playing already many years in their league so at a young age he was seen as one of the big talents.
“He has this talent but he’s also now having a confrontation with the demands of the Premier League, which are much higher in intensity of the game during 90 minutes.
“That’s a period all players, not just him, have to overcome, and I think they need time for that.”