By Martyn Herman
The chorus of disapproval that strikes up every time Manchester United struggle to find the net is having a negative effect on the players, manager Louis van Gaal said on Friday.
Three consecutive 0-0 draws preceded Tuesday’s home clash with CSKA Moscow in the Champions League and fans voiced their displeasure as Van Gaal’s side toiled to break down the Russians before Wayne Rooney’s late winner ended a 404-minute stretch without scoring.
United have scored only 15 goals in 11 Premier League games, the lowest total of the top seven, and need a victory at home to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday to maintain the pressure on leaders Manchester City and Arsenal.
Speaking at his Friday news conference, the Dutchman said the fans should direct their ire at him, not the players.
“Supporters have to support otherwise they make it more difficult for the players,” Van Gaal said.
“It’s very difficult to play for Manchester United with a lot of pressure and you can taste that in Old Trafford because of all the yelling, so it’s better to whistle the manager, I can cope with it.”
“Criticism from the fans is never unfair, and you cannot criticise the feeling of the fans. I think we have to play for the fans,” added the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona coach.
United were well-known for their attacking verve under former manager Sir Alex Ferguson when they used to hoover up Premier League titles for fun, but under Van Gaal they have struggled to turn possession into chances.
Against CSKA in midweek the fans shouted “attack, attack” and jeered when Van Gaal took off French striker Anthony Martial and brought on Marouane Fellaini in his place.
“I think we have attacked for 85 minutes of the 90 against CSKA so we have given a lot of entertainment,” he said.
“It is about goals. It is difficult to disorganise the teams with 10 men behind the ball. If two teams attack it is easier.”
He also suggested United had “made history” by beating CSKA.
“CSKA played last year against Manchester City at home and they won,” he said. “Even in the golden age of Manchester United they could not win at home – a lucky 3-3 at Old Trafford, so we have made history.”
Van Gaal hopes Morgan Schneiderlin will be available to face West Brom, although Matteo Darmian is suspended.
“There are no injuries, only illnesses,” van Gaal told MUTV. “Morgan Schneiderlin was ill. He shall train today for the first time so we have to wait and see.”