- Thursday’s Europa League defeat deepens concerns about Dutchman
- Group of senior players uneasy about tactics and training, Guardian learns
Posted by nana saina Posted on 5:57 AM
Louis van Gaal has lost the confidence of a group of senior Manchester United players and José Mourinho is their preferred option as his replacement.
While Van Gaal is generally well liked among the squad, the Guardian has learned this influential faction has been unsure for a while about him being able to turn the side’s fortunes around.
Thursday’s dismal 2-1 defeat at Midtjylland in the Europa League last-32 first leg has reaffirmed this view of Van Gaal, with players uneasy about his tactics and training methods. United face the struggling League One side Shrewsbury in the FA Cup on Monday.
Although there is a recognition those on the field must take their share of responsibility for uneven form – Thursday’s loss followed the 2-1 reverse at Sunderland on Saturday – Mourinho is seen as the man who can return the club to winning ways.
The Portuguese remains open to taking over but it is understood he feels he cannot wait around too long and so is exploring other options. One of these may be a return to Italian football.
Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman, continues to deliberate over whether to sack Van Gaal. Woodward is conscious that if he does not act soon the club may miss out on Mourinho. The Portuguese hinted he has several options for his next job in management.
Mourinho who was sacked by Chelsea in December, has been heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford at the end of the season; there were reports this month that United have already held talks with his representatives.
However, Mourinho, who is understood to have been sent replica versions of the Premier League and Capital One Cup trophies he won last season by Chelsea this week, and a letter thanking him for his achievements, has insisted that he is not actively looking for a new club and he denied reports in Italy linking him with a return to Internazionale.
“There is one thing I want to clarify – I will not be directing things over there next season,” Mourinho told La Stampa. “My next club? I really do not know, but one thing is certain – I love football and I will return with the same passion and ambition I’ve always had.
“Right now I have respect for every coach at every club. I’m not looking for a club, but there are clubs that are looking for me.”
Meanwhile, Michael Carrick has apologised to around 800 supporters who paid £71 apiece for a ticket to watch the match against Midtjylland and admitted the performance had not been good enough.
He said: “I can’t knock the supporters, they were incredible. They’ve been great throughout my time at the club, especially during the last couple of years when they haven’t had much to shout about.
“They’ve stuck with us and travelled to support us, so I can only apologise.”
The manager, Louis Van Gaal pointed to the total of 14 injured players as a prime reason for the defeat but Carrick refused to do so.
“I don’t think you can use injuries as an excuse,” he said. “It is something that is not ideal but I can’t make any excuses. I can’t put that down as a reason for losing.”
United took the lead through a Memphis Depay goal but held on to this for just seven minutes as the Danish champions equalised just before half-time thorough Pione Sisto, the substitute Paul Onuachu firing the winner on 77 minutes.
“The second half wasn’t good enough,” said Carrick. “And they are no excuses for that. We were not good enough at all and the only positive is that we’ve got another go at it next week. We’re bitterly disappointed, and frustrated and angry at the performance and the result tonight but when the dust settles over the next few days we will get ourselves ready for the games coming up.”
The return leg is on Thursday at Old Trafford but before then United travel to Shrewsbury.
“We have to pick ourselves up and go again – there is no other way.” Carrick said. “I could stand here and speak to people about the whole game but there is no point really doing that. We lost the game, simple as that.
“The defeat has shown that if you are not anywhere near your best then you can slip up – and we need to be ready for that. Football’s a funny old game and it throws up different things. But we know what to expect. It is not going to be an easy game. If we are at our best then we should win the game but it is not as easy as that.”