DERBY, United Kingdom: Under-fire Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal looked forward to drinking “expensive” wine gifted to him by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward after his side reached the FA Cup last 16.
Van Gaal conceded that his job was on the line prior to Friday’s (Saturday in Manila) fourth-round tie at second-tier Derby County, but goals from Wayne Rooney, Daley Blind and Juan Mata gave the visitors a 3-1 win.
United have won only four of their last 14 games, and were booed off after last weekend’s 1-0 home defeat by Southampton, but Van Gaal said that Woodward and the club’s other decision-makers had not lost faith in him.
Invited to divulge how we would celebrate progressing in the FA Cup, he replied: “I come back and my wife is at home, because she was in the Netherlands.
“The wine is already open and we drink a nice bottle of wine, probably the most expensive wine.
“I have received that from Ed Woodward, because I get always expensive wine when we beat an opponent out of the top six,” he explained, in reference to United’s recent 1-0 win at archrivals Liverpool.
Asked if Woodward’s gift had been a gesture of solidarity, the Dutchman, who is 18 months into a three-year contract, retorted: “That is a stupid question.
“It is not a question of one match. It’s difficult to understand, but it is a process and it is a period of three years. This board is very intelligent to understand that. It is not a question of one match.”
Van Gaal was in belligerent mood in his post-match press conference at the iPro Stadium and took issue with a question about whether his team had played with more freedom than usual against Derby.
“I cannot answer this question because you know already your answer,” said the 64-year-old, who earlier this week described press speculation about his future as “awful and horrible”.
“Your question is only to say tomorrow, ‘They had more freedom.’ They didn’t have more freedom. They have always freedom from me.
“You want to write that, OK, but don’t ask me rhetorical questions. I’m not pleased with how you are twisting my words.”
Martial ‘very bad’
Anthony Martial was United’s stand-out player, claiming two assists, but Van Gaal was not entirely satisfied with the French forward’s display.
“I think the first 20 minutes he was very bad,” he said.
“Maybe you have noticed that, because everybody is saying, ‘Fantastic play, man of the match.’ But you have to play 90 minutes good.
“But I have said that already to him, otherwise I could not say that to you. But after that first 20 minutes, he was fantastic.”
Rooney broke the deadlock in the 18th minute, bending a glorious shot into the top-right corner from the left-hand apex of the area, only for George Thorne to burst through and equalize eight minutes before the break.
But center-back Blind equalised in the 65th minute with an assured finish from Jesse Lingard’s right-wing cross and Mata made the game safe from Martial’s cut-back with seven minutes remaining.
Van Gaal admitted that his team had been suffering a “lack of confidence” after the loss to Southampton, which left them fifth in the Premier League, but felt they had played “with a lot of confidence and a lot of cohesion” against Derby.
“They want to fight for each other,” he added. “That is very nice to see for a manager.”
Derby manager Paul Clement, whose side is fifth in the Championship, had no complaints about the outcome of the game.
“I don’t think we were unlucky. Manchester United deserved to win the game,” said the former Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid coach.
“For a team that’s supposed to be in disarray and lacking confidence, they played well.
“But I was proud of the effort of the players. They worked from the first whistle to the last.”