I have not ful­filled sup­port­ers’ ex­pec­ta­tions, ad­mits man­ager

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE - By Pete Oliver at Old Traf­ford

Louis van Gaal ad­mit­ted that he had failed to de­liver what Manch­ester United’s sup­port­ers ex­pected of him and he may now have to con­vince the Old Traf­ford hi­er­ar­chy that will not be the case for them too, fol­low­ing ar­guably the most chas­ten­ing de­feat yet of his time in Eng­land.

The fans’ jury has long been out on Van Gaal’s im­pact at United since the Dutch­man took over at the start of last sea­son and af­ter Char­lie Austin’s late headed win­ning goal on his de­but for Southamp­ton the ver­dict moved no­tice­ably fur­ther to­wards the neg­a­tive as the play­ers, and Van Gaal in par­tic­u­lar, were loudly booed off.

It was the most telling sign yet that Van Gaal’s ten­ure may be reach­ing tip­ping point as Ed Wood­ward, United’s ex­ec­u­tive vice-chair­man, stood in the di­rec­tors’ box af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle to watch his man­ager’s lonely walk to the dress­ing room and lis­ten to the jeers that ac­com­pa­nied it.

“I’m very dis­ap­pointed that I can­not reach the ex­pec­ta­tions of the fans,” Van Gaal said. “They have – or they had – great ex­pec­ta­tions of me, and I can­not ful­fil them, so I am very frus­trated be­cause of that.”

The nu­ances of the lan­guage sug- gest Van Gaal prob­a­bly meant ‘have not’ as op­posed to ‘ can­not’, but whether he gets time to rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly doubt­ful.

United, and Wood­ward in par­tic­u­lar, have placed great faith in Van Gaal’s abil­ity to turn the team around af­ter the demise which fol­lowed the re­tire­ment of Sir Alex Fer­gu­son, an­other to watch Satur­day’s painful de­feat, in 2013.

They have spent heav­ily to around the tune of £250 mil­lion on play­ers since Van Gaal’s ap­point­ment but have a poor re­turn to show for it as the team slips fur­ther and fur­ther away from the stan­dards set as Fer­gu­son de­liv­ered the last of the club’s 20 league ti­tles.

Van Gaal, the for­mer Hol­land na­tional coach, who has won league ti­tles with clubs in the Dutch, Span­ish and Ger­man leagues, points out that play­ers have also been sold, which is not of­ten taken into ac­count by his crit­ics. But he must have had a hand in that too and it is hard to imag­ine United, what­ever was go­ing on be­hind the scenes, would be worse off with Án­gel di María, Robin van Per­sie, Danny Wel­beck, Javier Hernán­dez and even Tom Clev­er­ley and Dar­ren Fletcher in their squad.

Van Gaal’s record so this sea­son is worse than that of David Moyes, who was sacked af­ter less than 12 months in charge in April 2014 once Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion proved be­yond him and United’s power-bro­kers doubted his abil­ity to im­prove the team.

Now five points out­side the top four, Van Gaal looks to be equally strug­gling to achieve what would ap­pear to be United’s min­i­mum tar­get, un­less he can hang on and

sneak into the Cham­pi­ons League via the back door thanks to suc­cess in the Europa League.

Southamp­ton spent just £4 mil­lion on Austin to sign the striker from Queens Park Rangers, with his goal fur­ther ex­pos­ing United’s re­cruit­ment flaws and pro­vok­ing the sup­porter back­lash which Van Gaal did not even at­tempt to op­pose. “I agree with them, so it doesn’t have any im­pact,” he said.

“They have also knowl­edge of foot­ball, of en­ter­tain­ing foot­ball, and you have to play foot­ball to en­ter­tain the fans.

“To­day, I don’t think we have en­ter­tained the fans, so they can be very an­gry. But when we have won, then they were not so an­gry any­more, and that’s foot­ball. But now we have lost in the last minute …”

It was ac­tu­ally the 87th-minute and United did have time to equal- ise but Ad­nan Januzaj shot wide in in­jury-time with his team’s only real chance. It would have been some re­turn for Januzaj fol­low­ing the end of his un­suc­cess­ful loan spell at Borus­sia Dort­mund, a move which again only seemed to add to the mud­dled think­ing at Old Traf­ford.

In­stead, Januzaj’s big­gest im­pact was in giv­ing away the free-kick that led to Austin mak­ing space in the penalty area, which he does so well, to head home and sen­tence United to a sixth de­feat of the sea­son. This was also the sev­enth time they had failed to score at Old Traf­ford this sea­son and United’s cur­rent record is just three wins in 13 games in all com­pe­ti­tions, leav­ing Van Gaal nowhere to go when asked if his side should be do­ing bet­ter.

“Yes, of course, be­cause we want to be in the top three, and we’re not in the top three, and now, af­ter to- day, our com­peti­tors have won, so it’s a set­back,” he said.

How ter­mi­nal re­mains to be seen and there seemed to be a cer­tain in­evitabil­ity that with United so short of goal power, Austin would score with vir­tu­ally his first touch to give Ron­ald Koe­man’s side a third suc­ces­sive league win and se­cond back-to-back at Old Traf­ford for the first time in al­most four decades.

The 26-year-old has boasted a re­mark­able scor­ing record with QPR, Burn­ley and Swin­don, since he left non-league foot­ball with Poole.

“I don’t know whether I was cred­ited enough for what I did at QPR,” he said. “Now I have come to a club like Southamp­ton they are only go­ing one way and I want to be part of that jour­ney. I’m all about con­cen­trat­ing on Southamp­ton and play­ing in the Premier League be­cause this is where I want to be.”

to a flier: Char­lie Austin scores eight min­utes into his Southamp­ton de­but

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