Football

In defence of van Gaal

Pundits Murphy, Merson and Nicholas defend much maligned Man United boss

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Danny Murphy has defended under-fire Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, urging fans to "see the big picture" of the positive changes he has accomplished.

The Dutchman has overseen another disappointing season at Old Trafford with early exits in the Champions League, Europa League and League Cup.

An FA Cup semi-final against Everton next weekend and the desperate battle for fourth spot, which continues at home to Aston Villa tonight, now remain the Red Devils' sole positives this season.

But for a club steeped in success in recent times, that has been widely deemed to be not good enough. It has led to criticism of van Gaal by former United players Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand and Peter Schmeichel.

However, former Liverpool and England midfielder Murphy said: "There are some obvious deficiencies in that United squad, and they have underperformed across the board, especially in Europe.

"That's not good enough for the expenditure of the club, so I get what United fans are frustrated about.

"But what I would say is that, this is a man under enormous pressure, managing one of the biggest clubs in the world, and he's still had the courage to play and blood the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Guillermo Varela and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.

"On top of that he's also admitted his own mistakes in a way, by binning Memphis Depay - whose attitude and performances have not been good enough - and Matteo Darmian.

"You've got to look at the bigger picture. Van Gaal is confident enough to say, 'This team have been lacking some pace and urgency for a while and I've got some young players here who are unproven, but I'm going to give it a go and it just might work'.

"He could have taken the easy option and stuck with Darmian, Depay, Juan Mata and all these players the club have spent big money on.

"But instead he has changed the balance of that side with the players he has brought through, and has turned them into an athletic, pacy, well balanced and good counter-attacking team."

Paul Merson too praised van Gaal's persistence with youth, saying that should he be sacked, the 64-year-old would leave the Red Devils in a good position.

GOOD POSITION

The former Arsenal and England man told Sky Sports: "If Louis van Gaal loses his job, he leaves Manchester United in a good position.

"The young players they've bought in are really good young players for the future.

"He hasn't bought for himself, he's bought for that club.

"He didn't buy people to do this and that, he's got people in for the future of the football club.

"If he does lose his job, he leaves a team that will get better and better as the years go on."

Charlie Nicholas added that finishing fourth or winning the FA Cup would represent a successful season "for a side that aren't that talented".

The former Arsenal and Scotland man told Sky Sports: "If Manchester United win the FA Cup or finish in the top four - or even both - then that is a very successful season for this current side that aren't that talented but could still be back in the Champions League, where Manchester United have to be."

- Wire Services.

Why always me, asks LVG

MAN UNITED v ASTON VILLA

(Tonight,10pm,Singtel TV Ch102 & 
StarHub TV Ch227)

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has questioned why his future is under is scrutinised more heavily than his peers.

The Dutchman's side progressed to the semi-finals of the FA Cup on Thursday morning (Singapore time) after a 2-1 victory at West Ham, but are struggling to secure a top-four Premier League finish.

Last Sunday's 3-0 defeat at Tottenham left United in fifth place, four points behind neighbours Manchester City in fourth, and in danger of missing out on next season's Champions League.

That would leave the manager in a difficult position, with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho still considered a strong candidate to take over if a change is made this summer.

Van Gaal's contract runs until the summer of 2017, and he intends to see it out, despite acknowledging that United have struggled to string together victories this season.

He insisted that there are still reasons to be positive as they look forward to an FA Cup semi-final against Everton at Wembley next weekend.

YOUNG PLAYERS

The manager has brought young players such as Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah into the first-team set-up this season, in line with both his and the club's wish to bring through their own talent.

Asked if his policy of looking to the long-term by promoting youth-team graduates might have a positive effect on his battle to keep his job, van Gaal insisted that the question was irrelevant.

He said: "I don't discuss that with you. You can ask every time the same questions about what is happening with me. I don't discuss it with the media. The media is writing that. That's your problem. But I'm not discussing it."

When it was suggested to van Gaal that it was common for football managers to be placed under such scrutiny, he responded by arguing that he had faced more criticism than his Premier League rivals.

"No, I don't think so," he said.

"I read only about my position in the media but not the position of other managers, so I don't agree with that." - AFP.

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