Under-fire manager says he can revive the team’s fortunes as speculation grows about the Dutchman’s future.
Louis van Gaal has forced Manchester United’s board to make the final decision on his future by making clear that he will not resign.
The United manager, whose job is under threat after a run of only three wins in 13 matches, is continuing to insist that he can revive fortunes. He made a speech to his players at their Christmas lunch on Monday calling for unity ahead of a key run of fixtures, beginning at Stoke on Boxing Day.
The former Holland coach declared over the weekend that he felt he still had the support of the players and the board, despite his team’s poor form, and retains belief that he can save his job, even though the odds are against him.
With Van Gaal determined to fight on, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and club owners the Glazer family must decide whether to sack the manager and face the prospect of making a compensation payment of around £10 million to terminate his contract.
The manager is scheduled to hold a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to preview the trip to Stoke. He is set to lose his job if United lose either at the Britannia Stadium, or against Chelsea at Old Trafford next Monday.
United declined to comment on reports surfacing on Tuesday that Woodward was in a meeting in London to discuss the future of the manager, although the club’s board is continuing to consider its options.
Some reports had suggested that former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had been in discussions about the future of Van Gaal, but the Scot has not attended any such meetings nor would be expected to be part of any process to decide a successor.
Pep Guardiola, the Bayern Munich coach, and Ryan Giggs, who is assistant manager, are in contention but the agent for former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who had been considered the prime candidate to replace Van Gaal, denied on Tuesday night that there had been any contact between United and the Portuguese.
“There is nothing,” said Jorge Mendes when asked about possible talks.
Mourinho is a free agent after being sacked by Chelsea last Thursday and he has indicated that he is keen to remain in England.
United’s 2-1 defeat at home against Norwich City on Saturday was their sixth successive match without a victory, dropping them to fifth in the Premier League, nine points behind leaders Leicester.
During that winless run, they were also eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage, and their poor domestic form has put at risk their chances of qualifying for next season’s elite competition.
The unadventurous style of play exhibited by Van Gaal’s team has also drawn criticism from a host of former United players, most notably Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand.
Mark Hughes, the former United striker who now manages their next opponents, Stoke, has suggested that the players at Old Trafford must shoulder responsibility for improving the club’s performances.
Hughes said: “More often than not, if you’ve got a strong squad of players, and leaders within that group, they can get themselves together, shake themselves out of it and do something about it.
“That’s what all Manchester United teams of the past have done and I would expect them to do it again.”