Already fuming after seeing their team enduring a poor run of two wins from their previous 10 Premier League outings, United supporters gone through the deadline day waiting anxiously as the club didn’t able to manage any big signing while neighbours Manchester City announced the appointment of their next manager, Pep Guardiola.
United fans booed van Gaal when he walked down the tunnel in their last match at Old Trafford. The fact that the Red Devils are way behind in their hunt for the top four after a 1-0 defeat to Southampton was not at all the actual cause for their ire; it was the dour, unattractive football yet again.
For the 11th consecutive home fixture, United failed to score in the first half and only managed one weak shot on target throughout the entire match.
But last Friday’s 3-1 victory against Derby in the FA Cup was definitely a step forward in the right direction, but van Gaal is well aware he could find himself again in hot water if United do not beat Stoke at Old Trafford.
“I’m not a stupid man. I’m an intelligent man and I cannot predict the atmosphere on Tuesday,” the United manager said.
“I hope that we can give the same level of performance as against Derby.”
“Stoke City are a team that every club has a lot of difficulties with. I saw them play against Liverpool and thought they were very good – they deserved to go through. I have to say that I like how Stoke play, very much.”
Stoke’s penalty shoot-out defeat at the hands of Liverpool in the Capital One Cup semi-final followed their FA Cup exit at Crystal Palace, the day after United see off Championship side Derby with the support of the ever-vocal away support from the fans.
“Our fans supported us fantastically [on Friday night],” LVG also said. “I heard the fans of Manchester United more than the fans of Derby County.
“It is important that the fans continue to support the players against Stoke as the players have the most difficult task – they have to get a result at that hour, against Stoke’s resistance and there are no excuses. The fans have to support again.”
Another positive from Friday’s impressive victory at Derby was Michael Carrick’s return to first-team action. The midfielder was absent for nearly a month with injury but is now closer to being recalled to the starting eleven.
“He could only play 20 minutes against Derby and I wanted to give him that 20 minutes because we need him playing regularly again,” said van Gaal. “He did very well and I have no complaints.”
van Gaal may have survived the January transfer window, but his future at Old Trafford will yet again come under huge pressure if Manchester United do not improve over the coming month when they have to challenge the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, as well as an important Europa League clash with FC Midtjylland along with the FA Cup action against Shrewsbury.
“There is no time to enjoy the win in the FA Cup because we are already focused on our game against Stoke tomorrow,” former Chelsea player Mata said in an interview.
“This is a very busy month with seven games and our aim is to try to win them all, starting with Stoke, who beat us in the first half of the season.
“They have a team with many talented players who have changed the way they play football with regard to the last few seasons and it’s working well for them.
“We are looking forward to a new win in Old Trafford and, from now until the end of the season, we have to be strong at home and not concede any points.”
Not only the under-fire manager, even his boys know a similar display is required as they move on from FA Cup victory to securing three important points in the Premier League.