Louis van Gaal turned on his floundering players last night and accused them of being too frightened to play football because of the mounting pressure.
Gaal watched in horror at Stoke as Manchester United crashed to a third-straight league defeat after two goals in seven first-half minutes by Bojan and Marko Arnautovic,
The Dutchman left Wayne Rooney on a bench during the match and has this to say about it: “It is always a difficult decision to put your captain out of the team,” he said.
“We are always making a game plan and comparing players with each other. We do that every week and we decided to put him on the bench. But he reacted like a very good professional. He has a big contribution off the pitch as well as on.”
Michael Carrick admitted there were no excuses and admitted United’s losing run is “horrible”.
He said: “We gave ourselves too much to do. We conceded a bad first goal and Stoke is a tough place to come. To start like we did, going two goals down, the situation we’re in it’s tough.
Despite a second-half United revival, which saw Stoke’s England keeper Jack Butland deny Marouane Fellaini, Anthony Martial and Juan Mata, Van Gaal is on the brink of the sack.
But the 64-year-old Dutchman refused to take all the blame on himself last night: “My thoughts are that we didn’t dare to play our football in the first half and then we gave a really bad goal away. At that time it was too much.
“We didn’t play our football because of the pressure and we would not cope with the circumstances either as a group or individual players.
“I said at half-time we had nothing to lose and we coped better after that, You can say I failed in my job because they could not cope but in the end the players must do that for themselves. You can say I failed but I don’t think it is like that.”
United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward was not at the Britannia Stadium to see United crumble again – nor were former boss Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill.
But Van Gaal knows he is on thin ice after losing four competitive games for the first time since 1961.
When asked how long he has left in charge after failing to win for seven games the Dutchman said: “That is always the question. It is now another situation because we lost the fourth match in a row. But I still feel the support of everybody in the club.
“I don’t prefer that Ed Woodward comes out and says that publicly because for me it’s more important that people are saying that to me in private. I’m not so interested in public sayings, I won’t tell you what they say to me because it isn’t any of your business. It’s more difficult because I am also part of the four matches we have lost so people are looking at me and I have to deal with that, but much more important is that the players have to deal with it because they have to perform.
“I try to do everything to help them but the pressure is higher and higher in every match and we have to solve that problem.”
Delighted Stoke boss Mark Hughes praised keeper Jack Butland for a crucial save from Fellaini midway through the second half.
“Jack made an outstanding save at a crucial time of the game and if he’s scored it would have given them encouragement,” Hughes said. “We were excellent first half and it would have taken a very good side to stay with us.
“We were on the front foot from the start and had the same intensity in our play we showed against Manchester City.
“We were brave and confident and we have to continue that because we want a top-10 finish.”