MANCHESTER. — Louis van Gaal says it is none of the media’s business whether or not he plans to retire in the summer.
A report in yesterday’s Daily Mirror claimed all immediate transfer plans have been put on hold at Old Trafford amid uncertainty over the Manchester United manager’s future.
Van Gaal has 18 months to run on his contract and United have flatly denied meeting Pep Guardiola to discuss the position. And the Dutchman, whose relationship with the media became increasingly strained during an eight-match winless run late last year, was in no mood to discuss his plans as he attended his weekly press conference ahead of today’s English Premier League game at home to Southampton.
“I don’t think that the press have to help me with my decisions,” he said.
“First, they have sacked me and now they are interfering with my future. I don’t think I have to answer this question.”
Asked whether speculation over his future might affect United’s squad, he said: “Until now, I haven’t seen that.
“I have a relationship with the players and that’s the most important thing. What is happening in the media is a different world. Not everything that the media is writing, I’m sorry to say, is true.”
Manchester United will be looking to improve on their recent home record against Southampton today to give further credence to their unlikely challenge for the English Premier League title.
Since Southampton’s return to the top flight in 2012, United have beaten them only once in three attempts at Old Trafford, a 2-1 win three years ago this month. Wayne Rooney scored both of United’s goals that day and his current form has revitalised United’s season, taken the heat off manager Van Gaal and kept the team in touch with the league pace-setters.
Rooney has scored five goals in his last four games, including last Sunday’s winner in a 1-0 victory at Liverpool, which took United to within seven points of joint-leaders Arsenal and Leicester City.
After the win at Anfield, Van Gaal declared that his side can still win the league for the first time since 2013.
But they will need to improve on their general level of performance and will no doubt be under pressure again today with many supporters unimpressed by Van Gaal’s management and playing style.
Midfielder Juan Mata, left out of the starting line-up for the last two games, admits the team has to do better, but believes that there is still an opportunity to push for the top.
“I hope this win (at Liverpool) will give us a boost of confidence and help us play better and keep getting results in order to move up the table,” said Mata, who scored the decisive goal in United’s 3-2 win at Southampton in September.
“There’s a long way to go and there is no team who is showing a great consistency, so everything is still open. For the moment, we have to stay focused and keep the same mentality in our next game against Southampton.
“They have got two convincing wins in the last two games so we must be careful.” United may have Bastian Schweinsteiger back from a knee injury that has kept him out for two games to partner ex-Southampton player Morgan Schneiderlin in midfield.
But Van Gaal has confirmed that Ashley Young will be missing for a “long time” with a groin injury.
The England international requires an operation on the problem which he picked up during last weekend’s 1-0 win over Liverpool. Young, who has regularly been deployed as a full-back this season, limped out of the match after 42 minutes.
The injury came in a challenge from former Manchester City midfielder James Milner. Young appeared to be in agony at the time of the incident and Van Gaal confirmed the damage was worse than first feared during his weekly press conference.
But Phil Jones could return to increase Van Gaal’s defensive options.
Last weekend’s 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion moved Southampton back into the top half of the table and helped draw a line under a testing period last month.
James Ward-Prowse, the midfielder, spoke confidently after that game about reviving the club’s bid to claim a place in the Europa League for a second successive season. The arrival of striker Charlie Austin from Queen Park Rangers has only added to the growing optimism at St Mary’s. — Sky Sports.