Louis van Gaal was left agreeing with Manchester United fans’ scathing assessment of the team after the 2-1 Europa League defeat at FC Midtjylland – but insisted his players do not have an attitude problem.
The scoreline from the last-32, first-leg encounter in Denmark on Thursday means United have every chance of securing progress to the round of 16 when they host Midtjylland in leg two next week.
But it is set to be looked back upon as one of the most embarrassing results in the Red Devils’ proud European history – and was no less than Van Gaal’s men deserved after they delivered the latest substandard performance of their increasingly troubled season.
United supporters made their feelings known at the end, with chants of “we’re f*****g s**t” coming from among the 800 who had made the trip to the MCH Arena for a match that cost £71 per ticket.
And Van Gaal, whose position as manager is under ever-growing scrutiny, said: “The fans can criticise.
“They can do it because when you see the second half, maybe they are right.
“We have to improve and then the fans shall support us again.”
United led through Memphis Depay’s 37th-minute finish, but Pione Sisto levelled seven minutes later as he took advantage of a Michael Carrick mistake, and Midtjylland substitute Paul Onuachu then fired in a fine strike 13 minutes from time.
While Jesse Lingard did hit the crossbar with the score at 1-1, the visitors did not threaten a great deal overall and their goalkeeper Sergio Romero, making some excellent saves, was key in ensuring they did not suffer a heavier defeat.
Van Gaal said United had not won enough second balls, and when asked if Midtjylland had simply wanted it more than his men in those duels, he added: “You can describe it like that, yes.”
But the Dutchman disagreed with the suggestion his players’ attitude was a problem.
“It’s nothing to do with attitude,” he said.
“All the players want to perform in an excellent way. It is not a case of attitude.
“We were not winning the second balls – that is my analysis.”
Van Gaal did point out United’s already-lengthy injury and illness list had extended again just before kick-off, Romero getting a rare game because David de Gea was forced to withdraw from the team by a knee problem sustained in the warm-up.
That made it 13 senior players Van Gaal could not call upon, and he said: “I think it’s the law of Murphy.
“When you have such a list of injured players and a few minutes before the game we can add another player to it, it is difficult to cope.
“I have to make another line-up every week more or less so that isn’t contributing to much more confidence. So we are in a difficult situation.”
Meanwhile, Midtjylland boss Jess Thorup said of his side’s win: “We are not here to just enjoy the moment – we are here to try to get through the next round.
“Maybe we were the only ones beforehand who believed we could get through, but I think we have showed everybody we have a chance.”