By Ian Chadband
REUTERS – Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal was left reflecting on the toughest week of his 18 months in charge after England’s richest club suffered a shocking Premier League defeat at humble Bournemouth on Saturday.
The ever-confident Dutchman admitted he was not used to the indignity of successive losses as he oversaw a 2-1 defeat at Dean Court four days after VfL Wolfsburg had beaten United to ensure their elimination from the Champions League.
His struggling side have now gone five games without a victory in all competitions, two more than under previous Old Trafford boss David Moyes who was sacked.
Yet as the pressure continued to be cranked up on Van Gaal, already beleaguered over the supporters’ dissatisfaction with United’s perceived sterile playing style, he again shrugged off the growing discontent, saying he was used to it.
Asked by the BBC if the calamitous week had represented his worst in English football, Van Gaal conceded: “Yes, I’m not losing matches in a row very much, so it’s very tough.”
A goal down after less than two minutes when goalkeeper David de Gea made a hash of an inswinging Junior Stanislas corner which sailed directly into the net, injury-hit United, having to field an inexperienced, youthful rearguard, appeared to regain some stability when Marouane Fellaini equalised.
But Van Gaal was left to bemoan how his reshuffled backline failed to pick up on Bournemouth’s clever second-half corner routine, leaving United old boy Josh King unmarked to rifle home the winner.
“I had the feeling we could win but (on) the second set-play they scored again and then it is very difficult to equalise because Bournemouth is fighting together and pressing always,” Van Gaal said.
“We tried until the end, we had chances, but then you need also some luck.”
He had praise for some of his side’s young understudies in defence, though. “I have to say that (18-year-old left back) Cameron Borthwick-Jackson did very well. I don’t think it is because of (injuries) that we lost.
“We showed character I believe. I said it to the players after the match. Commitment is very high and that is the most important thing.”
Van Gaal may have tested the patience of United’s demanding fans in the week, suggesting the club, for all its pedigree and riches, cannot automatically expect success, but he retains the advantage of having the thickest skin.
Asked about the growing pressure on him, he shrugged: “It’s always like that. It’s not new. It’s a matter of belief, if you believe in this manager or not. That’s the most important thing.”
(Reporting by Ian Chadband in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)