LONDON: Manchester United’s under-performing players approach Monday’s home game with Chelsea not knowing whether besieged manager Louis van Gaal will still be in the dug-out when they take to the field.
United’s 2-0 defeat at Stoke City on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) was their fourth loss in succession—the club’s worst run within a season since 1961—and reduced Van Gaal to a dead man walking in the eyes of the British media.
The Dutchman admitted afterwards that he could not be certain of the United board’s support and raised the prospect that he could choose to leave Old Trafford of his own accord.
“I have said already in former press conferences that it is not always that the club has to fire or sack me. Sometimes I do it by myself,” he said.
“I am the one who wants to speak first with the board of Manchester United, with my members of staff, with my players and not always you (the media).”
Chelsea dispensed with their own manager last week, Jose Mourinho, paying the price for a calamitous start to the season, and the Portuguese is the favourite to take over at United in the event that Van Gaal departs.
Whatever fate befalls Van Gaal, there is guaranteed to be at least one sexagenarian Dutch coach in attendance at Old Trafford after Guus Hiddink’s appointment as interim manager at Chelsea.
Reprising a role he previously performed in 2009, the 69-year-old began life back at Stamford Bridge with a 2-2 draw at home to Watford that left the champions two points above the relegation zone in 15th place.
Diego Costa scored twice to earn Chelsea a point—book-ending goals from Watford strikers Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo—but will miss Monday’s game through suspension. Loic Remy is expected to deputise.
“We will go to Old Trafford. It will be difficult, but I hope this team will show, in every game, the ambition like they showed against Watford,” Hiddink said. “We are going there for the win.”
Second-place Arsenal will hope to get their title challenge back on track when they host Bournemouth on Monday, less than 48 hours after an embarrassing 4-0 defeat at Southampton.
With leaders Leicester City having lost 1-0 at Liverpool, victory would have sent Arsenal top, but they put in a bafflingly below-par display that resulted in their heaviest defeat of the campaign.