Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said on Thursday that the backing of the club’s supporters was a vital element in his attempts to improve his side’s spiralling form.
Van Gaal was thought to be close to losing his job in the run-up to Christmas as United were eliminated from the Champions League and slipped out of the Premier League top four. A poor performance in a 2-0 defeat at Stoke City on Boxing Day did little to help his cause, but his side played much better in a 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea on Monday.
However, that result extended United’s run without victory to eight games in all competitions and they have now dropped to sixth place in the table, nine points behind leaders Arsenal.
Van Gaal is aware that results have to improve along with performances, starting on Saturday, when his side are at home to Swansea City. “I am doing my work,” van Gaal told his pre-match press conference at United’s Carrington training base. “You have to do what you have to do.
“There are members of staff saying: ‘Boss, can I help you more?’ I say: ‘You help me by doing the things you have to as well as possible, and then I am satisfied.’ I also expect that from my players.
“This is not the first club, though it may be the last club, where I have had a bad period. I have had bad periods at all my clubs and I have to say the best fans are at Manchester United.
“In such a difficult period, they still applaud the performances of the players and that is fantastic.
“But still we need to win because at the end of the season, we want to be at the top of the league and not in the middle.
“We have to get points otherwise the gap will be too big and that is why we have to do what we have to do.”
Asked if he felt the pressure on him had been lifted by the performance against Chelsea, van Gaal replied: “I don’t know because pressure can be what you experience by yourself, but also what the players feel.
“And the players are the most important factor because they have to perform on the pitch.
“But the way we played under that pressure against Chelsea, in the style we want to play -- yes, that was fantastic.”
Van Gaal has lost all three of his matches against Swansea since taking charge at Old Trafford in July 2014, including a 2-1 defeat at the Liberty Stadium in late August. He rejects the idea that the Swans are a bogey team, but has been working to find out what went wrong in the previous three meetings.
“You come up with a game plan to beat your opponent and then you have to convince your players,” said the Dutchman. “Then you have to train. Then you can be committed and try to perform it.
“I have lost three times against Swansea, and so you have to evaluate why you lost. It is always like that, then you continue with the same vicious circle of working.
“There is no magic. It is about looking at what has happened and what can improve, as a team but also as an individual player.”