Van Gaal's future rests on Woodward and Old Trafford politics
Under-pressure manager has adopted a pessimistic attitude ahead of crunch match against Derby
Manchester United face Championship high-flyers Derby County in the FA Cup tonight and beleaguered manager Louis van Gaal knows that defeat could bring the curtain down on his Old Trafford reign.
The Times describes the match as his "latest — and potentially final — night of reckoning as Manchester United manager".
It has been reported that Van Gaal offered to resign after the defeat to Southampton last weekend -and that he was close to leaving over Christmas - and the Dutchman appears to have adopted a rather forlorn outlook.
Asked if victory against Derby could kick start United's season, he was typically contrary in reply.
"Yes, of course, but also when you lose, it’s worse," he said. "Now I can’t lose any more because I’m then condemned for the fourth time to be sacked and maybe then you have written the truth because sometimes it happens.”
He even claimed that the backing of chief executive Ed Woodward had added to the pressure, reports The Times.
He may be right in what are strange times at Old Trafford. United are in a "cash-rich, results-poor phase of the Glazer ownership, in which alarms are ringing over the state of the academy and the likelihood is that the club’s phenomenal commercial pull will be weakened long-term by the soporific football served up by Van Gaal", says Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph.
Van Gaal's fate lies in the hands of Woodward, thanks to the chief executive's success in other areas of the business.
"One clear truth is that Van Gaal is being protected by Woodward and that the Glazers still trust their lieutenant to make the call on whether to keep or sack [him]," Hayward says.
But Woodward cannot protect the manager for too long without damaging his own prospects.
"Unlike Van Gaal, the top man at United hopes to be around for longer than three years," says Paul Wilson of The Guardian. "Woodward seems to be pinning his hopes on Van Gaal’s previous achievements and what might be termed the United template of showing patience and loyalty to managers."